MCA (Adam Yauch)
Mix Master Mike
Douge E. Fresh
Directed by Nathaniel Hörnblowér
This innovative documentation of the Beastie Boys’ October ’04 gig at Madison Square Garden really makes you feel as if you had been there on acid.
On October 9, 2004, the Beastie Boys played a concert at Madison Square Garden. They handed out 50 video cameras to fans in order to capture the concert from every possible point of view, and then assembled that footage into this very different concert film.
By now, there’s little question that the concert film is making a comeback. While “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” used a very traditional approach to capturing a single concert, leave it to the Beastie Boys and their visual mastermind Nathaniel Hörnblowér (AKA band member Adam Yauch) to try to create a bootleg concert film that uses all of the visual experimentation that has made their videos so distinctive.
The idea behind this movie is fairly ingenious in that, when you attend a concert, there is just no way to be everywhere and catch every moment or angle. This must have been partially what was going through the mind of the Beastie Boys when they handed out 50 Hi-8 video cameras to fans at their New York concert and told them to go wild. With this type of coverage, you’re in the first row, you’re off to the side and you’re up in the nosebleed seats, often all at the same time.
Having never seen the Beasties in concert, it’s hard to tell if this set is representative of their live show, but it’s amazing to watch how these three guys are able to hold the stage with their energetic banter and little else. The high point of the show is when they’re joined on stage by human beatbox Doug E. Fresh for “Time To Get Ill,” which takes audience participation to the next height. That said, it’s their DJ, Mixmaster Mike, who often steals the show with his clever record-cutting and his bits in between the songs.
Halfway through the show, the boys are joined by a percussionist and keyboard player for a mellower instrumental jam, which is a nice break from the intensity of the set’s first half. The great selection of songs covers almost every aspect of their career, although oddly, songs like “Fight for Your Right” and “No Sleep ’til Brooklyn” are left out. Unfortunately, hearing all of the songs together like this just makes it that much more obvious how much weaker their newer material is compared to earlier records. For the encore, the cameras follow the Beasties as they run to the elevators, go all the way to the top of MSG, and perform “Intergalactic” out in the cheap seats before running all the way back down to close up the show with a couple rock numbers including, of course, “Sabotage.”
Since the movie is shot completely by non-pros, the camerawork isn’t great, and it takes some time to adjust to the often shaky and blurry camerawork, while others choose to waste film, like the one cameraman who films himself going to the bathroom. This stuff seems extraneous and unnecessary to the film.
“Hörnblowér” uses a lot of quick cuts to try to make this poor footage look better, but when that doesn’t work, he resorts to fancy computerized trickery and jarring effects to try to keep things interesting. Granted, there are a lot of innovative technological ideas at work here making some parts almost hypnotizing, but other effects are likely to cause motion sickness.
The overuse of these jarring techniques made me miss the no-frills approach to Jay Z’s concert film, which was also shot at MSG, and it’s a shame that “Awesome” comes out mere weeks after “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” which was also far superior due to its simpler approach at capturing an all-day concert. It also mixed the concert with enlightening interviews and other things that would surely have made “Awesome” a better film experience, rather than just being a bombastic concert film.
The Bottom Line:
Beastie Boys fans should appreciate seeing their favorite songs captured in such a unique way, but if you’re not a fan, it’s doubtful that you’ll have the patience to sit through what many will consider an unwatchable film experience. Epileptics probably will want to stay away from this one.