I didn’t know what to expect coming into the hotly anticipated and instant sell-out Beastie Boys show at Earth’s Hackney last night. I’m fairly confident in saying however that what I witnessed over those 2 and a half hours! was a truly unique, bonkers, brilliant yet beautiful send-off to the New York pioneers career and to the sadly departed Adam Yauch.
It’s well known that Adam Yauch’s unexpected, tragic death from cancer at only 47 back in 2012 has led to a retirement from live performances from the remaining Beastie Boys. This, of course, has made tonight’s special one-off event even more prestigious. A part-eulogy, part-celebration of the groups’ successful hip-hop career. Any fears of this being a cash-in are evaporated by the end of the evening, this was truly a labour of love.
Billed officially as a book-tour that would see surviving Beastie Boys members Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horovitz and Mike ‘Mike-D’ Diamond reading passages from their recently released memoir, the aptly titled Beastie Boys Book, a 600+ bible that charters the extraordinary career of three New York kids who dreamed big and achieved even bigger. Of course, the often outrageous and playful members were never going to cuddle up on a sofa and just read out chapters.
Instead we, the audience were treated to a piece of performance art. One which combined the characteristics of a play, a live comedy set, a DJ performance from longtime friend and collaborator Mix Master Mike. And yes of course obviously a book reading, but unsurprisingly with a contemporary twist as the pair constantly broke the fourth wall with fans and crew alike. One particular sound engineer’s job to keep the pair from going off on constant tangents I did not envy in the slightest, but it certainly kept the evening organic and exciting. With a constant feeling that anything could happen, and it certainly does, some of the most funniest moments were encountered off script such as when the entire event was nearly cut short towards its climax by a rouge fire alarm or when Ad-Rock stopped the reading to banter with a fan in the audience whose “shit memory” meant he spent the beginning of the performance frantically jotting down notes to the pair and audiences amusement.
So what did this evening exactly contain? It was all fairly straightforward chronologically as the band started at their early beginnings before moving onto tales from their lengthy career, so lengthy in fact most segments post-1996 got brushed past en route to an emotional finale. It’s fair to say however the pair could have easily and happily spoken for hours and hours about their career had it not been for the 11 pm curfew. (It’s in fact quite unrealistic to expect two grown men with awful attention disorder to be able to read a whole 600-page book between them in 3 hours) Of course those desperate to hear more can pick up the accompanying audiobook or read the full book itself.
The nine chapters we did hear from, however, were simply wonderful, a fantastic introduction for those new to the band or a reminisce down memory lane for long-term fans, of course with a few extra tidbits to surprise thrown in. Some of these tales would take the form of a simple book reading followed by a video segment to summarise what we’ve just heard. Others would be an elaborate and very hilarious re-enactment, costumes and all. There was a lot of dress-up! from painters to waiters, but there’s simply no denying the pair are lifelong friends as Ad-Rock and Mike-D’s chemistry propelled the evening at an electrifying pace. The delightful interruptions from Master Mike (an undeniable master of the decks on true form tonight) only added more sentiment and humour to the evening.
The group received not one, but two standing ovations as the night began to draw to a close. I say, group, because in that final half an hour the spirit of Adam Yauch was truly felt in that room, its a rare time someone’s absence hasn’t felt like an awkward, untouchable topic instead his life was embraced and celebrated by Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz to the point where their highly emotional and heartbreaking eulogies bought tears to the eyes of the audience, no seriously, the American man beside me (who spent the majority of the evening enthusiastically hollering and hooting) was in absolute floods, in fairness, it was easy to see why.
For a group whose life has seemed simply extraordinary and their personalities even more so, the evening was an absolutely perfect way to celebrate hip-hop pioneers and just simply, three great guys, the Beastie Boys.