- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Beastie Boys’ summer and fall Pageant Tour celebrates a 23-year career that has hopscotched from hard-core punk to a frat-house fusion of hard rock and rap to sample-heavy hip-hop and Latin-inspired instrumentals.

Tomorrow night’s concert at George Mason University’s Patriot Center will deliver a full helping of songs from the band’s albums, including break-dance-era salutes from the Boys’ most recent disc, “To the Five Boroughs.”

Buzzing with more wattage than a Times Square billboard, the group’s recent live shows bust out nostalgia-inspiring cuts from 1986’s “Licensed to Ill” LP and 1989’s “Paul’s Boutique,” the band’s best album. Adrock (real name Adam Horovitz), Mike D (Mike Diamond) and MCA (Adam Yauch) also deliver the distorted-microphone antics of “Check Your Head” and “Ill Communication” and the booming beats from “Hello Nasty.”

Beastie Boys and the astonishing Mix Master Mike (Michael Scwartz) indulge in onstage spontaneity and creativity. Accompanied by a crate of vinyl records, Mix Master Mike senses the ideal moment to splice in a classic rap groove or a new hit song in place of the usual backing track. Sometimes Adrock, Mike D and MCA adjust perfectly; other times it’s a train wreck. The blend of the expected and unknown stimulates the group and keeps the audience craving more surprises.

The native New Yorkers pay tribute to the resilience of their hometown after September 11 on 2004’s “To the 5 Boroughs,” their first new album since 1998. They also honor the rappers and DJs who filled their heads with hip-hop beats and lace the CD with more pop-culture nods than a week’s worth of “Access Hollywood.”

Miss Piggy, Albert Einstein and assorted ‘60s sitcom characters inhabit the stage-setting lead single, “Ch-Check It Out.” Throughout the 15 electro-boogie tracks, the lyricists name-drop cartoon characters Foghorn Leghorn and Snidely Whiplash, explorer Ernest Shackleton, infomercial maven Ron Popeil and practically every “Star Trek” character who appeared on the series. They also entertain old-school rap fans with samples and wordplay references to such artists as Dana Dane, EPMD, Run-DMC and UTFO.

More serious themes appear alongside the fun. Beastie Boys chose an election year to commit their most direct political statements to a full-length disc. Angered by the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq conflict and what they see as a crackdown on civil liberties, the B Boys unload their frustration.

The songs expand Beastie Boys’ activist role, which began in 1994 with its benefit concerts for a nonprofit organization that monitors injustices against native Tibetans. In March 2003, the band issued its protest against the war in Iraq with an Internet-only single “In a World Gone Mad.”

Mike D explained the band’s position during a July 2004 interview with VH1.com. “I think it’s a little clearer to people that this whole conception that criticizing what the government’s doing is anti-American is really nonsense,” he said. “The principle that this country is founded on is the involvement of people and our freedom to speak out. That’s such a crucial thing. That’s one of the reasons we love being Americans.”

Pageant Tour support act Talib Kweli will exercise his freedom of speech when he performs songs from his ambitious new album, “The Beautiful Struggle.” With a tongue that’s faster than a Ferrari, Mr. Kweli traces the frustration of residents of America’s impoverished inner cities and the everyday situations they face. The opening act — a series of tricks performed by trained dogs — syncs with the Boys’ reverence for oddball antics.

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From performing as James Brown’s backing band at MCI Center to touring with former Clash singer-guitarist Joe Strummer, the Pietasters have experienced some unforgettable moments on the road. The local ska and soul band’s newest adventures begin with a show Saturday at George Washington University’s Oktoberfest.

The Pietasters’ newest songs stick close to the original formula of “a boisterous soundtrack to a drunken night,” singer Steve Jackson says. The band has released six full-length discs and an anthology. Mr. Jackson expects a spring 2005 shelf date for the new material. A self-financed DVD that captures a March 2004 show at the 9:30 Club is in the final production stages and should be available in November.

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