Despite a pre-recorded introductory message from Tim Meadows declaring that there would be no magic performed on the stage during the course of the show, it was clear from the opening highlights montage that Beastie Boys Story — the second night of three in Brooklyn — was going to be magical. In many ways, this new show was similar to the Beastie Boys Book tour in late 2018, but this iteration of the performance had a lot more hands on deck: Spike Jonze sat behind the monitor directing a crew of cameramen for what is soon to become a movie version of the show, while Jonah Hill stood behind the curtain as a producer on the whole affair.
From the first moment that Adam Horovitz (aka Ad-Rock) and Michael Diamond (aka Mike D), the two surviving Beasties, took the stage, there was no doubt that the band has stood the test of time, even while the rhetoric of their songs might not. Thus began a scripted and rehearsed performance that charted the group’s ascension from the punk rock world to the pinnacle of hip-hop, through the commercial failure that was Paul’s Boutique, and the creative reinvention that spawned Check Your Head and Ill Communication.
But more than anything, Beastie Boys Story served as a living tribute to the group’s fallen third member Adam Yauch (aka MCA), who passed away in 2012 from cancer. The show began with Horovitz’s recollection of Yauch’s “prank stamina,” citing a fifteen-year gag that his friend masterminded involving a supposedly haunted ring.
Throughout the show, the band’s humor was on full blast, showcasing their continued existence as, according to Mike D, “a cross between Monty Python and Black Flag.” After a brief disclaimer explaining that Russel Simmons’ inclusion in the group’s story does not equate to condonation of his horrific actions, they were able to clown their former manager with an impression that focused exclusively on the disgraced mogul’s lisp and false promises. (Mike D’s Simmons impression combined with his take on the accent of a British bobbie are evidence that impressions might not be his strong suit, although they were extremely funny.)
To be clear: Beastie Boys Story isn’t just another “book talk” — in typical Beasties fashion, this show is really weird. There are intricate set pieces (including a recreation of the band’s first loop machine that Yauch created by looping a tape reel around two mic stands and through the rails of a kitchen chair), video and photo compilations, a young girl acting as stagehands and kicking Horovitz and Diamond off the stage several times, several physical altercation (one including smashed beer bottles), and appearance from “God,” and that’s just scratching the surface.
As the show wound down, Horovitz took a seat at the end of the stage to recount the band’s set at Bonnaroo 2009 just before the release of Hot Sauce Committee Part 2, a massive headlining gig that would turn out to be the band’s last-ever performance. In addition, the group was set to arrive in Tennessee a few days before their performance to film a new Roman Coppola-directed video with Nas for their new track “Too Many Rappers,” because, at that point in the band’s career, “the weirder, the more normal for us,” Horovitz recounted.
As he read off the teleprompter to lead the show into its final moments, Horovitz became visibly emotional running through a list of people involved with the band that didn’t make it to see what would become their last gig ever. The theater was deathly silent as he struggled to compose himself, at one point asking Diamond to step in and take over as he wiped tears from his eyes.
At the conclusion of nearly three hours of anecdotes, Beastie Boys Story leaves you wishing you were a part of their crew… or, for that matter, any crew that cared about each other the way theirs did — and still does.