|San Francisco Chronicle, September 15, 1998:
A Sure Shot / The Beasties Boys deliver a deluxe dose of attitude
By James Sullivan
Introducing the Beastie Boys at the Oakland Coliseum Arena on Sunday night, the Vallejo DJ Mix Master Mike manhandled a vinyl copy of Rush's space-tripping rock song "Tom Sawyer." With the sold-out crowd whipped into a sufficient frenzy by Mix Master's rhythmic, stop-time scratching of the record, the three Beastie Boys bounded onstage in matching orange jumpsuits. Smirking mischief-makers redeemed by their newfound sense of morality, the group members are in fact "today's Tom Sawyers."
With one of the year's biggest album releases in Hello Nasty, which remains in the Top 5 two months after its debut at No. 1, the Beasties have conquered the arena circuit. On Sunday the Coliseum Arena was a cauldron of youthful energy; there was a second show last night.
Instantly recognizable for their abrasive, hectoring style of ensemble rapping, the Beasties--Mike D (Michael Diamond), King Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) and MCA (Adam Yauch)--have learned to vary their performances by bashing out hardcore punk tunes, which were their first love, and playing comically soulful instrumentals inspired by the cop shows and blaxploitation flicks of the 1970s. The mix gave their Coliseum appearance the feeling of a revue, like an old Apollo Theater R&B show, and the audience responded with all the delirium of its Apollo counterparts. At one point Horovitz even pulled a James Brown, feigning--weepy exhaustion and then throwing off a towel draped over his shoulders. The difference is that the Beastie audience is uniformly white. They've remade hip-hop for the college crowd.
Performing on a circular stage in the middle of the arena floor, the Beasties scampered back and forth like pro wrestlers in a battle royal, exhorting the audience as Mix Master Mike bobbed in place behind his turntables at center stage, brandishing black plastic discs.
Earlier, Mix Master joined Shortkut and D-Styles, members, with Mike, of the local turntable crew the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, the three DJs showing off their skills in a half-hour opening set. Playing perfectly synchronized beats, each member took solo turns demonstrating the group's endless archive of scratching sounds--simulations sounding like whirring copter blades, vari able-pitch whistles, fast-forwarding audio tape. Next up was veteran Beasties sideman Money Mark and his goofy pop-garage band. Though the keyboardist was amusing with a set-opening gimmick involving a balloon and a trumpet, he lost the audience when he dipped into his earnest lounge-pop balladry.
It was the Beasties' wisenheimer attitude people had come to see, and they got the deluxe version. Opening with "The Move" from Hello Nasty and the enduring radio hit "Sure Shot" (" 'Cause you can't/ You won't/ And you don't stop!"), the Beasties rapped a half-dozen songs, then switched to live instruments. They're no longer just spirited punk hacks. Horovitz played hypnotic hooks and wa-wa heavy feedback on guitar ("Gratitude," "Remote Control"), Yauch played an upright bass on a few songs, and Diamond traded off with sideman Amery Smith on drums. Money Mark returned, adding keyboards, and the band also included congas-rattling percussionist Alfredo Ortiz.
Given the force of the band's delivery and the maniacal response it draws, the Beasties' burgeoning interest in Tibetan spiritualism sometimes seems like an apology. But when Yauch made a case for nonviolent protest, much as he did while accepting an award at last week's MTV Music Video Awards, even the mosh pit cheered.
After nearly 30 songs and song fragments, the Beasties disappeared down three trapdoors. Thundering applause brought them back for their current hit "Intergalactic," followed by "Sabotage." That song hit like a firebomb. Streaming rolls of toilet paper sailed past the TV monitors hanging over the general-admission crowd, and the reserved seats roared as if the home team had just won a nail-biter championship game. Huge basketball fans, the Beasties know exactly how to play to their adoring fans. And they don't just showboat--they make their shots.