Beastie Boys : London ICA

More tea, motherf---er?...

Today I’ve been having a bit of tea,” says Ad Rock, fiddling with the collar of his lawyer-from-Frasier shirt. “It’s good for the throat. Does anyone here have a scone?”

So when does the time come to let the beat drrrrrop? At what point in life’s inevitable journey from inflatable cock through Buddhist smock to cradle-rock does the order come down from hip-hop’s Grand Central (Pensions Dept) to say you can, you could and you really should STOP!

The ghetto hard-man schtick peddled by Dr Dre and Ices T and Cube kinda suits the rapper of, shall we say, a certain motherf—ing vintage but the [a]Beastie Boys[/a], for all their boundary-popping credentials and indie-rap nobility, always traded on the goofball dollar. So how long before three ecologically-aware 40-something vegetarians with one eye on the Tibetan monk ‘situation’ coming on like a gang of hop-scotching video geeks becomes as ridiculous as The Who playing ‘My Generation’ in their 60s or James Brown – now aged 347 – breaking a hip doing the splits and offering to shag us even though his genitals shrivelled up and dropped off in 1989?

Stripped of the futuristic Manga nuclear waste technician ‘chic’ of ‘Hello Nasty’ in favour of their everyday Central Perk-wear, there’s a hearty whiff of Embarrassing Dad tonight, the faint wedding reception whisper of, ‘Go on, George, do that rapping thing you used to do!’ Yauch, now as grey as Graeme Garden (ask the Pope), struggles with arthritic tonsils throughout, Mike D appears to be fresh out of chokey after a stretch for mid-life-crisis shoplifting and Ad Rock, occasionally wracked by Walter Matthau “YEEEAAHH!!”s, celebrates every ‘ill rhyme’ with the kind of ecstatic gurn you’d expect from a new dad letting go of his son’s bike for the first time. There’s talk of “lovely days”, “walks in the park” and buttery bakery fare and this 40-minute Radio 1 showcase, in direct contradiction to the laws of Hip-Hop Time, is wrapped up well before eight, in time for Will & Grace and a cat food supper before beddy-byes. Hey, you gotta fight for your right to colostomy…

Thankfully, in the face of encroaching ‘elder statesmen’ status, the music still, um, stanks. After a ten-minute scratch symphony from Mixmaster Mike (whom, we learn later, “nobody does it like”, although this writer makes the same sort of noise by accidentally falling on the decks

in the Barfly most nights) the [a]Beastie Boys[/a]execute

a fluid, funky and frenetic set of mini-classics (‘Sure Shot’ instead of ‘Sabotage’; ‘So What’cha Want’ rather than ‘Fight For Your Right’) speckled with endearing lyrical fuck-ups and the odd bolt

of blinding rap beatzkrieg (‘Body Movin”,

a rapturous encore of ‘Intergalactic’ and the allegedly ‘old skool’ (although I never heard anything like it at Eton) ‘Three MCs And One DJ’, featuring Mixmaster Mike trying to make his decks ‘talk’ – seemingly asking any passing mice if they can pass him a scone. The three new tracks aired tonight are rose-tinted war stories of Rap Gone By: ‘Right Right Now Now’ is a harpsichord churchyard groove like DMX gone Merchant Ivory, ‘Triple Trouble’ is filthy ’70s funk-raped Hutch-hop and the single ‘Ch-Check It Out’ is a furious beat pile-up that requires only a decent chorus to be worthy of ‘Licensed To Ill’.

So the beats still jump, though the beatmasters seem Jurassic. “Apparently there’s a wedding happening upstairs,” says Ad Rock, as if worried he’s late to give the bride away. More tea, motherf—er?

Mark Beaumont