BEASTIE BOYS at the Air Canada Centre (40 Bay), Monday (November 8), $36.50-$56. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
New York City - Well into their 30s, the Beastie Boys have been married, had children, sounded off against the Bush administration and contemplated serenity with the Dalai Lama.
Still, interviewing them is like talking to three ADHD-prone 11-year-olds who've spent the last half-hour eating packets of coffee sweetener. There's a point when you just have to resign yourself to a tangent-fraught free-for-all and take from it what you can.
That point comes when, seated opposite Ad Rock, Mike D and MCA in the Canal Street loft adjacent to their studio, I notice Ad Rock eyeing the unauthorized Beastie Boys bio - complete with pics - I was reading while I waited and happened to carry into the room with me.
"Can I look at this?" he asks, interrupting Mike D as he picks it up.
As he flips through it, they notice various photos of them with celebrities taken in 1985.
"Weird Al!" MCA exclaims at a shot of them as teens mugging with a vintage Yankovic.
I ask if they've heard Twister, the parody nerd's Beastie Boys-style ode to the game.
"Twister?" asks Mike D. "Do you mean, like, uh, like, you mean, like, a song like the Love Jams song? Like, uh, the Kanye West Twister song?"
No, that's not at all what I mean. Mike's joking about Slow Jamz, the current Kanye West hit featuring the rapper Twista.
While he doesn't get it quite right, I think he's trying to show that despite a six-year hiatus, the Beastie Boys have been paying attention to the trends. This is further proved by their decision to have producer du jour Just Blaze remix their Ch-Check It Out single, and to punk Kanye West at the MMVAs by having a fake reporter ask him how he feels about the Beastie Boys being kidnapped by Sasquatch - a clip that surfaced later in their Triple Trouble video.
Perhaps these are ways of seeming up-to-date in light of their releasing a back-to-the-old-school album. To The 5 Boroughs is a hot record for doing away with all the manic sampling extravagance of their previous release, Hello Nasty, and finds them kickin' typical silliness ("You know my name is Adam - stop calling me Phyllis") and ardent sentiments about post-9/11 New York over hard but minimal beats and rhymes.
"Actually, it may be a bit misleading to have all these different photos sort of scattered throughout this book," MCA says. "I think most of them were taken in one afternoon. I think we were...."
"They were all taken in one night!" Mike confirms enthusiastically.
"Well, I haven't seen every single picture in the book, so I don't know," MCA continues. "But mostly the ones I've seen were taken at this party backstage at a Madonna concert, and we just said, 'Hey, it'd be really funny to see how many of these celebrities we could get our picture taken with,' so we went around and asked all these different famous people if we could take a picture with them."
Back then, when they were "just a bunch of joeys," the only thing the Beastie Boys were known for was getting booed and hit with things while they tried to impress Esther's growing teenybopper fan base during her Like A Virgin tour.
Mike begs to differ. "Sean Penn probably knew who we were," looking at a shot of them with Madonna's ex. "Rob Lowe, on the other hand...."
"But Rob Lowe we're really cool with," says Ad Rock. It's extremely hard to tell if he's joking.
"That is actually, though, hilarious that there's a picture of us with Rob Lowe," says Mike D. "We're tight with him."