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Without even trying to, the Beastie Boys have managed to make a Tuesday night in South London into a seismic event. For most bands, playing Brixton Academy is just another step on the swift climb up to the top of the greasy pole before sliding gracelessly back down into obscurity but, as we are reminded tonight, these chaps first played here in 1986. So despite Metronet doing their best to piss a lot of people off tonight the Academy is buzzing, and more than a little expectant.
So when they open with Mix Master Mike's mind-bendingly good scratching and a full-band punk song, everyone nods along and finger-points a little. After all, you could argue that if all you wanted from the Beasties was a run-through of the big hits, then you could sit at home and play their best-of at full volume. The crowd grooves a little, but still the air of expectation hangs heavy. Then another instrumental number - funky and very danceable - that makes everyone start to forget about the imminent parade of Big Songs Everyone Knows and just enjoy the gig. You can forget, amongst the squealed rapping and the fact that 'Intergalactic' is played at every club on the face of the Earth, that the Beasties have prevailed for so long precisely because they've taken the time to try out some new stuff here and there.
But then the bassline to 'Root Down' floods the air and no one does anything other than dance like an utter fool, because no one knows how to work a crowd like Mike D, MCA and the King Ad Rock. From here on in the set works alternately - instrumental cuts from The Mix Up (as well as a brilliantly-rendered 'Sabrosa') for everyone to calm down with and shake a leg, then some belters that whip up a kinetic moshpit down the front and make the entire room shout such brilliant inanities as "What's the time? / Time to get ill!" in perfect call-and-response unison.
So we get 'Remote Control' with Ad Rock adding colour on the guitar as Mike D bounces around like hyperactive teenager, truly thudding versions of 'So Whatcha Want' and 'Shake Ya Rump' and 'Sureshot' a song so inherently good that it could make a corpse want to bounce up and down. Yeah, there's no 'No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn' or 'Get It Together' or 'Triple Trouble', but that only becomes evident once the gig's finished, such is the sky-high level of engagement from start to finish. The instrumental sections serve as mini interludes (and even prompt a couple of treats in the form of 'Heart Attack Man' and 'Tough Guy'), and considering how proficient Mix Master Mike is, the integration of decks and organic instruments is seamless and thrilling. Before 'Intergalactic' he drops in a bar of Rage Against The Machine and half a bar of DJ Shadow before slipping back into the familiar computerised riff that sends the entire place nuts. He is the reason mp3s will never be truly cool - you can't imagine him right-clicking and adding to a playlist, especially considering his obvious glee in swapping circular pieces of vinyl over.
Plainly, it's a fantastic show, and as entertaining as you could hope for. The inevitable encore comes and the inevitable roar for 'Sabotage' almost drowns MCA's casual strumming of his bass. Almost. Obviously, there will be cynics who bemoan the lack of [insert personal favourite here], but they have no soul. Hell, when a setlist includes 'Brass Monkey' it's more of an effort to be bummed out than it is to be cheerful. The Beasties showed that, just like with Chelsea, form is temporary but class is permanent. And the sheer class of their tunes is pretty much unbeatable.
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