Sunday, September 09, 2007

Beastie Boys at Brixton Academy - 4th Sept 07

Okay, so there were no nearly-naked girls in cages, inflatable penises or co-ordinated tracksuits. After all, it’s been over 20 years since The Beastie Boys supported Run DMC at Brixton Academy (and the following year, Public Enemy – if this isn’t recommendation enough I don’t know what is), and ‘boys’ doesn’t really seem that appropriate anymore. Fortunately, their support act, Philadelphia’s finest purveyors of hip-hop filth, Spank Rock, do not disappoint. Grinding and pumping their way through thirty minutes of blush-inducing, dark and dirty beats, they bring new meaning to the term ‘warm-up’ act. Counting Thom Yorke as one of their biggest fans, please do take a look at their impeccably tasteful MySpace page. Understated, huh? The sap's clearly rising in the house that night, as I am mighty tickled to be chatted up using the immortal opener 'How yew doin'?' from a bona fide tanned, tatooed Little Italy New Yorker. Like the thorny English rose I am, I stifled a howl, nodded and and said 'I'm fine, thank you very much. And how are you?' Amazing how quickly he lost interest really.

As time ticks past 9pm a braying crowd begin a unified stamping, shouting chant of ‘Beastie Boys! Beastie Boys!’ before Mixmaster Mike takes to his decks amid hysterical screaming – the man is a G.O.D. after all. In fact, if I have one criticism of the gig, it’s that we didn’t get enough Mixmaster Mike action. For your viewing pleasure, I highly recommend you check out this video from their last (heartstopping) tour. My enduring memory of that night at Wembley is of gasping during Mixmaster Mike’s solo interlude, fearful that I may never see anything that good again. I still haven't.

Lovingly described by my Rough Guide to Rock as ‘sniggering and bratty…moronic and tasteless,” I have loved The Beastie Boys since the days when I too, was bratty and moronic. But The Beastie Boys are old men these days, MCA sporting a distinguished salt and pepper haircut, Adrock looking super-smooth in an elegant suit, fedora and big gold jewellery, and Mike D in a chic, skinny, tailored blue two-piece. Of course, this lounge-lizard look lasts just the time it takes for Adrock to sling a guitar round his shoulders, MCA to pick up that bass and Mike D to get behind the drums and it feels like 1986 all over again (at least I imagine it does) as we are thrown headlong into a violent moshpit of pure, distorted, anti-social punk.

After corroding our ears, things get explosive as that undulating, menacing but sexy bass off Root Down kicks in, whereupon I sustain the first of many bruises around my rib-cage. Note to all girls – if you’re around 5’5" and standing at the barrier of Brixton Academy at a potentially hectic gig, I strongly advise against wearing an underwired bra. Money Mark keeps his shades on for the regular lounge-music interludes that slink their way into The Beastie’s set. Sitting just the right side of sleazy, songs off new instrumental album The Mix-Up rest easy alongside squelchy slap-bass favourite Sabrosa, and much of the night we’re treated to funky, low-key grooves inbetween moments of sheer anarchy.

Halfway through the show and I am coated in a lovely grimy layer of sweat, only some of it mine. Standing against the front barrier, hips pressed against the metal as a couple thousand people try to get that little bit closer, we all open our mouths like goldfish as a line of obedient security guards hose us with water. “Can everybody take one little step back so y’all get a little more room. We want y’all to be a little more comfortable, k?’ smiles Adrock, clearly chuffed to bits at the carnage they’ve caused. Soaking wet bodies continue to fly over the barrier every time anyone so much as mentions the word ‘ill’.

The Beastie Boys play and perform with the kind of cocksure easiness and confidence you’d expect from a group with such longevity. Live, the chemistry between their voices is stunning. One need only replay the intro to Sure Shot for proof. Mike D’s spiky whine, Adrock’s snarling nasal bite and MCA’s knee-trembling gruffness all delivered in that streetsmart, gum-chewing New York drawl, matched with staccato lyrics that are absurd and intelligent, childish and conscientious. On stage, Mike D leaps erratically across the stage, strutting about in his confrontational way. Equally energetic Adrock gurns his way through vigorous guitar playing, before cheekily modelling his sharp suit; the consummate charmer. Every bit as laconic and cool as he sounds, MCA swaggers across the stage, casting vaguely dismissive, sideways smiles at his two pumped colleagues, while he casually sips from his cup of coffee. Mixmaster Mike keeps everything tight, happily riffing off The Beastie’s improvised moments which involve comedy crowd participation and not a little posturing. Money Mark alternates between providing the funky sleaze and hurling himself around the stage clad in New York’s finest tailoring. Believe me, it's quite a sight.

Come the encore and the paramedics are attending to one of my barrier neighbours as the crowd seesaws across a dancefloor slippery with beer, sweat and other bodily fluids. Gesturing to the upper circle, MCA gallantly flouts all health and safety rules with one wave of his hand ‘Y’all can all stand up people, you don’t have to listen to that!’ Adrock casts him a slightly nervy, disapproving look. In a fit of overexcited dancing, Money Mark hurls himself onto his keyboard before promptly toppling off, flailing arms and legs disappearing behind the riser. Fortunately, he emerges, looking worse for wear, and contritely settles his keyboard back on the stand…before starting his mad tribal waving all over again. As Adrock slings his guitar over his shoulder for the last time, mopping his brow and adjusting his fedora, gushing ‘Man, we y’all love you guys, we really appreciate it y’all, we jus’ love comi’ here y’all’ even the security guards look excited. As that crunking great electric guitar starts up, Mike D beating the crap out of his drums, a collective primal ‘IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII caaaannnn’t staandd it’ ushers in the calm before the great apocalyptic mosh of moshs.

And let me tell you, every single bruise was collected with love. If you want proof, just see the set list (which blogger ain't letting me upload, so it's typed above, but thank you Mr Roadie – you know I was the most deserving candidate).

My night of Beastie bruising brings to mind a love letter to The Beatles from one Cookie E of Queens New York. I feel just the same about my B-Boys (although MCA - you know I love you just a little bit more, k?)

Dear Beatles,

I saw you when you landed at Kennedy Airport in New York. I was almost killed and I was just six feet away from you. Everybody went crazzzy. I had an ankle sprained, my dress town, a slightly scratched face, and a black eye.


I adore you all.


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