Beastie Boys Deliver a Mixed Bag in New York

The hits electrify, the mid-set slumps, then the Boys round it out with a smart, eclectic finish

Beastie Boys Rolling Stone, Adam Horovitz Rolling Stone, Adam Yauch Rolling Stone, Ad-Rock Rolling Stone, MCA Rolling Stone, Mike D Rolling Stone, Beastie Boys first Rolling Stone feature
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Adam Yauch, Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond of The Beastie Boys pose for a portrait on May 27th, 1994 in New York City.
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Beastie Boys
New York
Madison Square Garden
May 23, 1995

Old-time fans of the original, fight-for-your-right-to-party Beastie Boys must have been aghast: These formerly irresponsible, badder-than-thou teen idols are donating $1 from every concert ticket to local charities and the Milarepa Fund, a foundation that aids Tibet.

But then, no other band has experienced the strange and brilliant career evolution of the Beastie Boys. They've grown musically without growing up attitudewise. Here they are, rocking arenas on their own terms after enduring a period of critical acclaim and cult favoritism. Reincarnated as wise-ass artist entrepreneurs, the Beasties now present a broad, skewed universe of popular-culture references: from Tom Carvel on the "Cooky Puss" single to Kojak in the brilliant "Sabotage" video. And the Beasties are capitalists, too: They sell truckfuls of X-LARGE clothes, and under the Grand Royal banner, they run a record label and put out a sporadic magazine.

Introduced by Flavor Flav, the Beastie Boys tonight wisely moved the crowd pleasers – big, percolating hip-hop ravers like "Stand Together" – up front while ushers battled the legions of preppy youth gone wild who were charging in the econo-size pit.

Three songs later, despite the entrance of special guest Biz Markie, the show started to bog down: Sonically deprived of its multilayered and sampled studio-production niceties, the material took on a numbing, repetitious feel – hyped-up guys yelling over percussion.

Just the right moment for a switch to the hardcore segment of our entertainment program. On "Time for Livin' " and "Tough Guy," the Beasties galloped into the sunset in fine faster-faster-faster style – accompanied by feverish, spiky lights that flashed like giant bug zappers. But the jazzy sections proved that this brash band is genuinely innovative: Like, OK, we're going to play serious, heavy music here, party monsters of the pit, and you will like it. On "In 3's" and "Sabrosa" (which featured Adam Yauch on stand-up bass), the Beastie Boys offered an entirely different concert. This one was completely incongruous but effective, superbly played, risky and somehow reverential. And then the Beasties played the encore: "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." Just like the old days.

This story is from the July 13th, 1995 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 712: July 13, 1995