By ALEX VEIGA, Associated Press Writer
LONG BEACH, Calif. - The members of Beastie Boys are flashing liquor and cash while betting on a street-level parlor game — with a Jewish twist. Instead of a 40-ounce brew, Adrock throttles a bottle of Manischewitz wine. In lieu of dice, MCA tosses a dreidel as Mike D hangs back with a gold Kiddush cup. Moments later, MCA, the band's self-styled Kung Fu master, chops through a thick stack of matzo bread like Bruce Lee busting through three-ply mahogany.
The cliche rap video hijinks, performed for a magazine photo shoot, are vintage Beastie Boys, whose pioneering white-boy send-up of rap seemed equal parts put-on and homage when they started out nearly two decades ago.
Now, a string of critical and commercial success behind them, the seasoned rap slingers from New York are taking their summer hit album, "To The 5 Boroughs," on tour.
The Boys are all nearing or fresh into their 40s, but they're not short on rhymes.
"You could look at it like, here's a group that's been around for a while, been in the game for a while," Mike D (the D stands for Diamond) says backstage at the Long Beach Arena, the fourth stop on their U.S. tour.
"But at the same time, I feel like we're brand new to the pageantry game," he says. "We've only just begun within the world of pageant. That's given us an entire new lease on life."
Is he joking? You never can tell with the Beastie Boys. Especially after several small dogs open the show by jumping through hoops and walking on wires to carnival music.
"We should make it clear that this is not a concert tour, so much as a traveling pageant," says MCA, a.k.a. Adam Yauch. "We tried to gather feedback about the kinds of things that children are into and what came back to us was a pageant, repeatedly."
For the uninitiated, a pageant is a spectacular, colorful display or celebration.
"It involves certain kinds of dress, certain kinds of festivities, celebrations, feasts or food. I'd like to emphasize the feasts, if I might," Yauch says. "You don't just nosh, you feast, you don't just throw on some clothes, you get dressed, and these are the differentiations."
When the group eventually takes the stage, they strut, jump and flex their brand of old-school rap in bright green and yellow track suits.
The pageant action presumably kicks in during one segment when they strap on powder blue 1970s-era tuxedos and musical instruments, then run through some of their 1990s material under strings of colored light.
After years of touring, pushing boundaries, the group has to find motivation anywhere they can. It's not easy to stay fresh.
"By watching the dog show, I get inspiration," Yauch admits. "'Cause you see them and like, they don't hold back, you know? And they know how to work the crowd. They get up there and they know when to use subtlety."
Diamond is also quick to underscore how the canine troupe inspires the B Boys' own show.
"There are times when one dog will jump off the ladder and take a spill — and that's for the team. You know, there's no 'I' in team," he deadpans. "We realize when we get out there, it's a group effort, it's a team effort and we gotta leave it all on the floor, which the dogs also do."
Fans can look forward to hearing the group's biggest hits during their tour, which started Sept. 10 in Denver. They are digging deep into their musical past — and apparently, Aerosmiths' as well.
"We go way back," Diamond says. "We do some songs from 'Toys in the Attic,' 'Rocks,' 'Dream On.'"
Yauch chimes in: "'Destroyer.'"
But it's not just about recycling old hits.
"We also do some of our newer songs that we feel really proud of like, 'Dude Looks Like a Lady,'" Diamond says.
The B Boys are determined to keep action on the stage lighthearted, despite the fact that over the years, they've grown more socially conscious. Their passion for causes such as Tibetan freedom and their opposition to the war in Iraq (news - web sites) are well known.
But they're not intent on weighing down their pageant with political preaching.
"We realize people are paying good, hard-earned pageantry cash to see and be part of the pageant, so we try keep the focus on that," Diamond says.
During the Long Beach show, there are sparse references to President Bush (news - web sites). There's a short video of "Saturday Night Live" alum Will Ferrell (news) portraying Bush-as-idiot. And later, the group dedicates "Sabotage" to the president.
Despite their feelings on Bush, the group would consider a White House show, if asked.
"Yeah, we could put on our flight suits and go down there," says Yauch, "smoking roaches in the stair well."