NEW YORK With their brief set of funky grooves and intelligent rhymes, the Roots proved to be a hard act to follow on Monday during the second of two benefit shows spearheaded by the Beastie Boys to raise money for those affected by last month's attacks on the World Trade Center.
Only an unannounced appearance by Moby, Michael Stipe and Bono came close to rivaling the Roots for delivering the highlight performance at the final New Yorkers Against Violence concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
The Philadelphia collective, whose signature is live instrumentation sans samples, loops or preprogrammed beats, hit the rapt crowd with songs from 1999's Things Fall Apart and 1996's Illadelph Halflife. Punctuated by ?uestlove's intense drumming, many of the songs incorporated arrangements more improvised than those familiar from studio tracks.
Mos Def, who had performed earlier in the evening, guest rapped on the group's "Double Trouble," adding his distinctive flow to a crowd favorite that had even the most reluctant heads bopping to the bass-driven beat. Scratch brought the house down with only a microphone in hand, running through a beatboxed turntable flourish complete with scratching and alternating beats that culminated in the rest of the group taking turns mimicking the MC's mouth music.
Following the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's blooze-rock set, which came off as retro-shtick in the Roots' shadow, Moby, equipped with an acoustic guitar, and Stipe delivered an airy serenade of the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties." Moby, seated, then strummed the chords of Neil Young's "Helpless" as the R.E.M. frontman waved in Bono from stage left. In mid-song, Bono, bearing a sign with the song's title scrawled on it, broke into Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" while Moby still stuck to the chords of "Helpless." The trio quickly returned to the Young classic, which resonated with new meaning in the wake of mounting fears.
The Beastie Boys reached further into the past for their second headlining slot in as many nights, serving up old-school joints such as "Slow and Low" from their 1986 debut Licensed to Ill and "Shake Your Rump" from 1989's Paul's Boutique. The straightforward beats of the earlier cuts, combined with turntablist Mix Master Mike adhering more to the original music tracks, allowed for a performance free of the few hang-ups that plagued Sunday's show (see "Beastie Boys Kick Off Benefits With Peaceful Sonic Assault").
Where MCA, Ad-Rock and Mike D might have been a bit rusty Sunday, not having performed together in more than two years, they seemed more relaxed for their second show in a row. Even MCA's usually drowsy delivery suggested more of a laid-back vibe than it did going through the motions, as Sunday's performance indicated at times. "The Skills to Pay the Bills," "So What'cha Want" and "Unite," from their latest album, 1999's Hello Nasty, rounded out a set that pleased fans young and old.
The Neptunes' N*E*R*D side project delivered the night's best single-song performance with a booming rendition of "Lapdance," though their opening-band timeslot prevented many latecomers from appreciating it. A tweaked-out version of America's "Horse With No Name" pointed at the group's sense of humor while not taking away from their skills.
As with Sunday's show, members of the New York Women's Foundation and the New York Association for New Americans, the two charities benefiting from proceeds raised at the two events, explained their missions while thanking the crowd for their support. Author/professor Benjamin R. Barber also reiterated the sentiments he expressed Sunday on economic globalization. Pakistani Qawwali singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan's performance mirrored his appearance at Sunday's show as well.
For more information on and audience reaction to the attacks, including tips on how you can help, see "9.11.01: Moving Forward."
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