Mike Diamond / Adam Horovitz - The Beastie Boys Story: Live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Mike Diamond / Adam Horovitz

The Beastie Boys Story: Live in Philadelphia (2019)

live show

In a surprise blast of activity, Mike D and Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys announced three dates for a mysterious live project called The Beastie Boys Story as directed by Spike Jonze. One Philly and Two New York dates sold put in about an hour or so, so a third New York date was added, though perhaps surpringly, the show’s first date was not in the group’s home base NYC, but in the city of brotherly love, which can be a difficult crowd. Not to mention, no one knew that the show was actually going to be.

Before the event, the talk outside the rainsoaked Tower Theatre was the event would be something akin to their New York Q A sections with Jonze acting as the master of ceremony. Yet, three gigantic red tractor trailers idling outside seemed to dispel that thought.

Inside, the venue was all hustle and bustle with people weaving in and out getting beers and checking out the ample merch selection, including every B-boys album on vinyl and about 16 shirt designs (Big, big, big props to the B-Boys for selling shirts MADE IN THE USA!)

Even though the event was slated to begin at 8:00pm sharp as no less than five e-mails from ticketmaster told me, the show didn’t kick off until 9:15 and by then, the Philly crowd was as sauced as usual in such an occasion. Suddenly, a giant screen lit up with a montage of the Beastie Boys’ antics, and when just some of their crazed adventures were stapled together, it really is amazing and unparalleled the journey this group has had.

Shortly, Mike D and Ad Rock took the stage to thunderous applause. Knowing that they Philly crowd can revolt on a dime, especially with their bellies full of liquid bread, the pair snapped right into the event, which became imminently clear, would be the first person recounting of their history.

Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond are as likeable as it gets and the two goofballed it throughout the night, sometimes running through scripted jokes and skits and sometimes adlibbing. As their dozens (hundreds?) of amazing video interviews have proven, these guys excel in the improv and when the duo was going off script, they were at their freshest and funniest.

The show was supplemented by a healthy amount of photos and video, each of which conjured the time period in question, from the late 70’s, the golden 80s, and the alt 90s. The value wasn’t so much in the information presented – most of the topics covered were already known either through their past interviews or their fantastic new book – but in how the changes in the band’s life affected them. When they first released the surprise local hit “Cookie Puss,” the pair seemed to grow enlivened just as when it first exploded (complete with their live TV Afrika Bambaataa prank).

Likewise, the B-Boys have been accused of falling prey to some of the indignities of youth, and they addressed those issues head on, namely “girls” and the unceremonious booting of founding member Kate Schellenbach.

Of course, some of the funniest and saddest moments were when the band focused on the sadly deceased third member, MCA aka Adam Yauch. A good deal of the show focuses on him and it almost felt as if the show was a tribute to MCA himself. That may be the right way to play it. At times, the band recounts how he was an absolute innovator and at other times, a total alien. To a degree, they admit that they are lost without him and that’s an honest, generous, and touching emotion. They also mention clearly that Beastie Boys ended when MCA passed away and they are carefully to not do any musical performance during the show, which was tasteful.

It being the first show (and probably an upcoming broadcast special due to the cameras filming) not everything was a hit. Some jokes didn’t land and there was a line stumble here and there. Some of the site gags were hilarious and some didn’t quite seem to make sense. That being said, at a massive 220 minute performance, the show served as an intimate look into the Beasties private world. The Beasties have often hidden their inner thoughts behind braggadocio rhymes, silly costumes, high concept presentations, or Python-esque interviews, so it was a true pleasure to see how they really felt. Of course, being the B-Boys, every touching moment was equaled with a skit where Jonze reprimanded them off stage, or a truly hilarious re-enactment of them meeting Bob Dylan, complete with unexpected stand-ins for the Beastie Boys themselves.

At times in their career, the Beasties seemed like entities from another galaxy, what with their off-kilter style, surprise instrumental albums, sasquatch escapades, and in-joke magazines. But, at others, sometimes, for some reason, when they rapped about riding around town on a low rider bicycle or digging through moldy record bisn, it felt like they were your cool next door neighbor and that, kinda, you were as cool as they were. (You’re not, but you feel like you are.) As the show made clear, the band’s otherworldliness really is a product of nerd-type friendship (and Yauch’s shifted perspective), but these are kinda-sorta-maybe regular dudes with a healthy creative strike that were pals with cool ideas. That is, at their core, the Beastie Boys were artists second, friends first.