Beastie Boys give rebel rousing performance at Wilkins
Image by Steve Cohen for City Pages
"We've got the power to make a difference," actor/Tenacious D "singer" Jack Black bellowed to a full house of anxious fans at Roy Wilkins Auditorium Saturday night, moments after performing a charismatic cover of David Bowie and Queen's "Under Pressure" with fellow college rock headliner Ben Harper. The standing crowd on the floor inched forward with anticipation every minute, illustrating who the full house of fans came to see. "So, from the land of the Timberwolf," Black continued in a regal tone, "we are honored to bring to you now: BEASTIE BOOOOOYS!"
Total darkness fell over the Auditorium before Mixmaster Mike's DJ setup was illuminated and he began his usually extraordinary intro-set of alien-speak turntablism, culminating with the beginning of Hello Nasty's "Super Disco Breakin.'" Then, everybody's favorite pair of Adams and Mikes were on stage together jumping around stage like they'd been caged for hours, chanting the hook: "Money-makin, money money makin / Super disco-disco breakin...'
When the song ended and both audience and artists caught their breath, Mixmaster Mike donned a cheesy Uncle Sam Hat and the "Get Out And Vote" logo flashed on the video screens. An energetic (and skinny) Mike D. shed his green button-down sweater and addressed the fans, thanking them for coming out and encouraging them to vote this Tuesday.
"We're doing big things on this stage," he said with conviction and to applause, adding that the tour's been fun -- unlike the last 8 years of politics. "I voted absentee at home and personally, I voted for Barack Obama." Then they asked the audience to throw their hands up in the shape of 'O' for Obama, kicking off a set of tracks from Ill Communication with "Flute Loop," "Alright Hear This" and an amazing live version of "Sure Shot," Ad Rock's robust energy carrying the set.
"Minneap-you-lous, where you at?" Mike chirped at the up-for-it crowd, the mis-pronunciation causing him to giggle and many fans to look quizzically to their friends. "I mean MINNEAPOLIS!" he laughed.
"Actually, we're in St. Paul right now," corrects Ad Rock, the bigger Twin Cities fan of the three. "We've got a real special relationship with Minneapolis. We love you." (But there was no talk about why they've neglected the city they supposedly love for so long.)
Ad Rock and Mike D. went on like this throughout the show, leaving MCA looking like a third wheel in their jokes. But as "Pass The Mic" was cued up over the beat from Unk's "Walk It Out," MCA delivered his best moment of the night, his voice making the song an undeniable Beastie favorite. Next up was "Check It Out" -- a song from an album this writer never enjoyed (To The 5 Boroughs), fans pulling back a bit with the newer material. But as soon as the initial riffs of "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" rang out, the entire place erupted and made for a great peak to the set as a whole -- despite the fact that Ad Rock called for a rewind after slipping on a verse. Things starting to wind down after that, and it seemed there there was something familiar about this set: it was almost identical to the one in Chicago in 2007 that officially closed their small tour that year. So there wasn't much surprise when the Boys left the stage and came back out for an encore of guitar-based material: "Biz vs The Nuge," "Time For Livin'" and "Gratitude." And before the final song -- which everyone knew would have to be "Sabotage" as it's absense would leave a gaping hole in the performance -- Ad Rock got uncharacteristically serious.
"Tuesday. You gotta fuckin' vote," he said clearly, crouching to become eye-level with ticketholders on the main floor. "Broken voting machines? We're gonna let it come to that? .. Let's take this shit in the right direction."
At least in the immediate future on this stage, the direction would be constrained mayhem. So Mike D. -- who maintained a loveable air of childlike awkwardness the whole night -- dutifully took to the drums and both Adams slung guitars over their shoulders.
"We'd like to dedicate this song once again (as) a goodbye and goodnight to George muthafuckin' W. Bush!" Ad Rock said to raucous cheers.
And then the Beastie Boys -- who have proven over and over again they're still relevant to the world of popular music -- played the most impassioned rendition of "Sabotage" to end them all.
Overall, the night encompassed a set career-spanning crowdpleasers, any predictability trumped by the overarching cause behind the show and the excitement behind the Beastie-Twin Cities reunion. The show undoubtedly will be etched in the minds of many fans for years to come -- perhaps even after President Obama leaves the White House.
If you missed the show, we're sorry. Check the setlist:
Don't forget to vote this Tuesday, Nov. 4!