Beastie Boys perform on the eve of Obama's historic inauguration - Rolling Stone
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Beastie Boys Pass the Mic for Obama at Raucous D.C. Show

“Nobody in the media is talking about Abe Lincoln’s one frozen testicle,” Mike D noted from the lip of the 9:30 Club stage in Washington, D.C. last night. “None of the pundits, none of that.” They’re always good for a nervous laugh, but on the eve of Obama’s historic inauguration, the Beastie Boys seemed to be asking another question altogether: Can vintage party anthems garnished with oodles of Dada stage banter influence real, 21st century political change?

Yup. After touring through various battleground states last year with Sheryl Crow and others, the legendary rap trio helped Rock the Vote register a record number of new voters in 2008. Last night’s concert celebrated that feat, with the Beasties delving deep into their songbook to a time when Adrock, MCA and Mike D were just three pimply teenagers chasing fame in Reagan’s America. “No! Sleep! ‘Til Brooklyn!” the crowd shouted along with the trio, fists pumping in time with the song’s timeless crunch.

DJ Mix Master Mike kept the rappers on their toes throughout, swapping out original Beastie beats with the club bangers of all shapes and sizes: “Root Down” would morph into “Apache” while “Shake Your Rump” cleverly transformed into Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker.” But sometimes you can’t trump the original. When the opening flute licks of “Sure Shot” came wafting out of the PA speakers, the crowd went berserk. One guy with Obama’s campaign logo shaved into the back of his coif appeared to find his inner Bobblehead.

Sheryl Crow’s opening set was hardly as raucous, but that didn’t diminish the singer’s almost beatific glow. “This is the thing I was looking forward to,” she said, beaming from the stage. “Besides tomorrow at 11:20.” (Insert first official roar of the night here). She doled out her hits “Change” and “If It Makes You Happy,” and wrapped up with a spirited cover of “Higher Ground.” Her version struck a closer resemblance to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ take than the original Stevie Wonder scorcher, but felt no less optimistic.

The Beasties’ closer offered even greater closure. “This is the last time we’re gonna have to dedicate this song to George W. Bush,” Adrock announced moments before the fuzzy chords of “Sabotage” sent a jolt across the room. Beers were spilled. Hands were thrown toward the ceiling. The Beastie Boys were a party band again.

Beastie Boys Set List:

“Root Down”
“Shake Your Rump”
“Sure Shot”
“Triple Trouble”
“Pass the Mic”
“Flute Loop”
“Super Disco Breakin’ “
“Do It”
“Right Right Now Now”
“No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn”
“High Plains Drifter”
“Ch-Check It Out”
“Body Movin’ “
“Three MCs and One DJ”
“So What’cha Want”

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