Beastie Boys Story: inside the offbeat, heartfelt stage show from Spike Jonze

The visionary director transports a feast of tidbits and anecdotes to the stage with innovation and genuine heart

When Adam Horovitz, otherwise known as Ad-Rock, was at a 1992 gig in San Francisco with his fellow Beastie Boys band members Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Yauch (MCA), he was given a ring by a pushy fan. Indifferent to the gift, he put the ring on a shelf and forgot about it. Some time passed and the group was on a train from Washington DC, and Horovitz was going through his luggage only to find that the ring had mysteriously found its way inside. Horovitz was puzzled. Then in 2007, Horovitz was on tour once again and going through his backpack, only to find that the ring has terrifyingly and mysteriously returned. It wasn’t until the band was about to go on stage during a later gig did Yauch mention to Horovitz, in passing, it was part of a continuing 15-year-long prank he was pulling on his friend.

And so starts Beastie Boys Story, a deep dive two-man exploration of the complete history of the seminal hip-hop trio starring Diamond and Horovitz, with direction by Spike Jonze, where the life of the band is brought to vivid detail both on and off-stage. That includes the ring tale, complete with sets mimicking the moment Horovitz was given the ring and that fateful train ride.

First staged in Philadelphia and finishing its recent run at Brooklyn’s ornate Kings Theatre, the show is based around last year’s Beastie Boys Book and verges on four hours long. As such, it’s designed to be the ultimate telling of how three friends growing up in the dilapidated New York City of the 70s and 80s became iconic parts of the pop culture landscape. Using pictures, clips and audio projected behind Diamond and Horovitz, at its purest form Beastie Boys Story is an innovative extrapolation of the idea of a two-man show, and at its weakest amounts to a rather fun PowerPoint presentation.

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