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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Beasties keep it fast-paced and sardonic

Trio surveys their previous album and new material from an all-instrumental collection.

August 21, 2007|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

It was almost 21 years ago that the Beastie Boys burst out of New York City with their "Licensed to Ill" album, white rappers who sniggered and elbowed one another all the way to the top of the pop charts (a first for a hip-hop act at the time). Since then Mike Diamond, Adam Horovitz and Adam Yauch -- better known to the universe as Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA -- have proven themselves clever and versatile hit-makers, genre-straddling self- and socially conscious performers whose mocking calls to defend one's right to party have evolved into serious critiques of human-rights abuses and the Iraq war.

But they're still good fun, as the trio demonstrated Sunday at the Greek Theatre, in a 95-minute concert that showed just how far their sardonic fusion of rap, punk and metal has come. This first of two sold-out nights at the amphitheater surveyed every previous album and offered new material from the all-instrumental collection "The Mix-Up." (A third performance, drawing solely on that album, is scheduled for next Tuesday at the Wiltern.)

The fast-paced set -- no ballads, man! -- featured Mike D on vocals and drums, Ad-rock on guitar and MCA on bass (including an electric upright), with Mix Master Mike (Michael Schwartz) on the decks, keyboardist Money Mark (Mark Ramos-Nishita), and drummer Alfredo Ortiz. Interspersed with the full-band onslaught were intervals of -- as the "Hello Nasty" track says -- "3 MCs and 1 DJ."

Dressed like "Blues Brothers" extras in suits, sunglasses and fedoras, the trio dropped their clownish-to-political mad science with durable good spirits, despite fumbling the start of a couple of selections. In fact these blips served to energize performances that occasionally felt a little by-the-numbers.

New tunes such as "B for My Name" and "Off the Grid" had a kind of modern Meters feel and provided funky-soulful counterparts to material as old as the 1982 punk bit "Egg Raid on Mojo" and early hits "Brass Monkey" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" while fitting nicely alongside the psychedelic raga groove of 1994's "Shambala."

This mash-up of nostalgia and fresh excitement had such a party-all-night propulsiveness that everyone seemed stunned when the show slammed to a halt with the final, body-banging notes of "Sabotage."

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