If a poll had been taken to find out why concertgoers came to the Get Out and Vote '08 concert Saturday night at sold-out Roy Wilkins Auditorium, the results probably would have been: 93 percent to see the Beastie Boys, 3 percent to see Tenacious D, 2 percent because "my friend had an extra ticket," 1 percent to see Ben Harper and 1 percent to rock the vote.
Despite the well-intentioned purpose of the seven-city tour to encourage young people to vote on Tuesday, this was essentially a Beastie Boys concert. Not only had the legendary New York-bred hip-hop trio not performed in the Twin Cities since 1998, but the Beasties hadn't played in such a small venue in probably 15 years. And they didn't disappoint the eager 6,000 fans. They gave an invigorating performance of old-school hip-hop with a little punk, funk and jazz mixed in.
Despite having to contend with a sound system that muffled their vocals, the Beasties once again demonstrated their famously intricate verbal dexterity, with the three MCs seamlessly exchanging lines and rhymes. While sleepy MCA, 44, had less energy than Neil Diamond, Ad-Rock and Mike D, both 42, were as hyped as always.
Showing the kind of spontaneity rarely seen at a big-name hip-hop show, Ad-Rock and Mike D volleyed back and forth between songs. Mike kept talking about being in "Minne-ap-PEW-less" and Ad-Rock corrected not only the pronunciation but also the location -- St. Paul or Twin Cities. By contrast, their performances were spot-on, especially the syncopated "Root Down," the explosive sing-along "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," and the galvanizing punk slammer "Sabotage." Big props, too, to DJ Mixmaster Mike for keeping the beats fast, furious and funky.
Tenacious D, a comedy duo, opened the evening with 40 hilarious minutes of mock metal on acoustic guitars. Kyle Gass proved to be an accomplished guitarist and Jack Black, the famous "School of Rock" actor, asserted himself as a truly gifted vocalist, spirited comedian and skillful actor. Harper's 45 minutes of blues-rock was more assertive musically than vocally except when Tenacious D joined his band for a wonderfully playful treatment of the Queen/David Bowie hit "Under Pressure."
As for the politics of the evening, all three acts urged people to vote on Tuesday. There was a bit of anti-Bush rhetoric here and there. Tenacious D's Black talked about voting for "Your mama," and the Beasties' Mike D said that he had cast his absentee ballot for Barack Obama. The name John McCain was never uttered.
For set lists and fan comments, go to www.startribune.com/poplife. Jon Bream • 612-673-1719