The Beastie Boys are still Ill

Throughout their 23-year existence, the Beastie Boys underwent otherwise unthinkable metamorphoses in both musicality and style. Today, New York City’s favorite sons are so far removed from any conventions, expectations or previous incarnations of themselves that they defy any characterization outside of simply being the Beastie Boys. After phases as satirical drunken frat boys, blazed court jesters, early-90s Lollapalooza darlings and moralist space cadets, the only constants underlying their best work are their lack of seriousness and scatterbrained, nonsensical humor. It’s clear from their performance at the George Mason University Patriot Center last Friday that they realized this for themselves.

Friday’s concert left no stones unturned. But the show was no rehash or dust-of. They made even the juvenility of Licensed to Ill and the stoned mayhem of Paul’s Boutique feel fresh and new again. The performance of early songs like “Brass Monkey” and “Shake Your Rump” came across as stooped (not stupid) and unapologetically fun acknowledgment by the band of their earlier ‘unenlightened’ stage. They even let the audience rap the whole first verse of their theatrically silly, badasses-in-the-desert anthem “Paul Revere.”

Even the incorporation of songs from the Beasties’ newest album To the 5 Boroughs felt seamless. Thankfully, the band mostly shied away from Boroughs’ blatantly anti-war and anti-Bush material. The high-flung moral absolutism of Boroughs’ politically skewed songs was replaced live by a video of Will Ferrell’s “campaign ad” for George W. Bush and the band dedicating “Sabotage” to the President.

Whether backed by the incredibly talented DJ Mix Master Mike during the hip-hop sets, dropping the chorus to Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” or playing jazzy instrumentals and harder-rocking nuggets from Check Your Head and Ill Communication, they did what they did best: had a good time. The band picked what works, and strung it all together, filling the Patriot Center with a celebratory joviality. Even in 2004, the Beastie Boys fight for the right to party.

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