“The Mix Up,” the Beastie Boys latest Capitol album, is an all-instrumental affair, a move that serves the same purpose for the New York rappers that jukebox albums such as the Band’s “Moondog Matinee” served for ’70s classic rockers — a chance to relax, lower expectations and provide an excuse to tour. “No time for making up a monster to sell,” they admit on “Time for Livin’,” the opening song of Sunday’s Greek Theater show.
While the band’s instrumental “gala” isn’t until tonight, the new album’s influence can be felt throughout Sunday’s swiftly moving 90 minutes: Not only do Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz), MCA (Adam Yauch) and Mike D (Diamond) play their instruments for nearly half of the show (a good idea, considering how winded they sometimes seemed after their leaps and swaggers during the straight-ahead rap tunes), the setlist puts a Cuisinart to the Beasties’ various hip-hop, hardcore and lounge incarnations.
The psychedelic lounge of “Sabrosa” slides into the bratty prog-rock of “Gratitude,” which flows into the pugnacious punk of “Tough Guys” (in which you imagine the now 40-year-old Beasties are very happy that their twentysomething selves kept the hardcore tunes short). The only time the band lit on a specific style was during a three-song instrumental run midway through the show, which tamped down the momentum, and had to give anyone with a ticket to tonight’s show pause.
Perhaps, in a generation or two, music fans will look at the early 21st-century output of the Beastie Boys with the same fuzzy nostalgia; their current show, while proving the durability of the band’s catalog and persona, finds it hard to escape the feeling that Beasties are treading water.
A certain amount of looking back seeped into just about every aspect of the handsomely mounted production: The stage is dominated by geometric screens hanging over the band on what looks like a mid-century mobile, structures that are both modern and antique; the screens on the side of the stage are sometimes cropped to look like early black and white televisions, a pointed reference that even obsolete technologies can eventually look cool. What appears to be a first- generation iMac sits next to the drum kit, a reminder of how quickly new design turns outmoded.
Dressed in slim suits, shades and skinny ties, the band looks retro hip — in his porkpie hat and dark green suit, shirt and tie, Ad- Rock looks like a bookie with old-school fashion sense. With his monochrome threads and graying hair, MCA (who looks much worse for wear by evening’s end) could be a disreputable member of the surveillance community; Mike D could pass for Dylan, circa 1966.