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In concert: Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed PeasWilli.I.Am and Fergie of Black Eyed Peas at Verizon Center Tuesday night: The E.N.D. of tastefulness. (All photos by Mark Gail/TWP)

By Chris Richards

For the love of BlackBerry, Target, Bacardi, DirecTV, Pepsi, Hewlett Packard, Doritos and the National Basketball Association – does the Black Eyed Peas’ crusade for omnipresence know no bounds?

The chart-topping, Grammy-winning, whole-lotta-sponsor-grabbing Los Angeles quartet has revolutionized the way we consume pop music, reaching its massive global audience not only through album sales, but through a profusion of commercials, licensing deals and endorsements. With the Black Eyed Peas, the notion of overexposure begins to feel obsolete. Selling out applies only to ticket sales.

The Verizon Center was sold out Tuesday, where frontman Will.I.Am thanked a throng of adoring fans for what’s been “the biggest year of our career.” Touring behind the group's massively successful 2009 album “The E.N.D,” he was joined by fellow rappers, Taboo and singer Fergie, leading his comrades through a hit parade of lowest common denominator pop music. From the grating surf-riffs of “Pump It” to the prefab anthemics of “I Gotta Feeling,” these were simple songs with a simple goal: to keep bodies moving.

(One nation under a vapid, milquetoast groove, plus more pictures after the jump.)

Black Eyed Peas

They weren't always successful. The set was ill-paced with a murky vocal mix often dampening the group’s brightest hooks. And despite some truly fantastic, futuristic costumes, the concert's eye-popping visual elements still felt both excessive and sub-par. The garb couldn't eclipse the wardrobe from Lady Gaga’s "Monster Ball” tour. The stage wasn't as breathtaking as U2’s “360 Degrees Tour." The entire production wasn't nearly as elegant as Kanye West’s “Glow In the Dark” tour. But then again, the Black Eyed Peas have never aimed to deliver the best – just the most.

So the hits kept coming, with dancers wearing skin-tight body suits and face-concealing helmets. As the quartet strutted up and down the catwalk in sparkling coats and strange masks, their dancers struck robotic poses.

There was plenty of posing from the Peas, too. During “Meet Me Halfway,” Will.I.Am slung a keytar over his shoulder but didn’t bother with punching out any actual notes. It was just another prop – enough to make you wonder if he was faking it later in the set as he recited a freestyle rap, based on fans' real-time text messages. He read them off of a video screen and spun them into rhymes, but the messages were suspiciously generic and typo-free.

Was it all a ruse? Who cares. It was one of the few moments of this almost two-hour extravaganza where there was real music being made.

But despite a series of solo turns (Fergie performed her solo hits, delivered a break dancing routine and Taboo rode a floating motorcycle over the crowd), the Peas aren’t about individualism. They’re about one nation under a vapid, milquetoast groove.

After some bipartisan blathering, Will.I.Am introduced “Where is the Love?,” a ballad bogged down in platitudes and perhaps their most noxious song. It eventually veered into a patriotic call-and-response routine (“Say, ‘I love the U.S.A.!’”), and fans played mockingbird as if participating in some government-sponsored mind control drill.

At least he wasn’t shouting out BlackBerry.

Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas

By David Malitz  |  February 24, 2010; 7:57 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Black Eyed Peas, Will.I.Am  
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Next: In concert: Dawes


3 black guys, a white gal and an audience whiter than U2's. Progress? Umm, I guess. *shrugs*

I'd say I feel kinda sorry for the "other 2", but they're rich as can be, so no, not so much.

Posted by: EricS2 | February 24, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I've seen the group live on TV a few times and have not been impressed by Fergie's "vocals."

Posted by: linroy62 | February 24, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse


You live
in the world
with a great
your delicate
eyes invent
in a moment
a beautiful

Francesco Sinibaldi

Posted by: Frasin66 | February 24, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

The Peas are nothing more than a marketer's dream. Black guys with odd names to make the group seem hip? Check. Good looking white singer to make the group seem sexy AND multicultural? Check. Music that is very dull and non-threatening? Check. Sign them up for your next corporate event.

Posted by: JoeMinDC | February 24, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

^They sound like the perfect candidate for the RIAA's next 930 Club Xmas party.

Oh wait; they don't fit the "been out-of-the-limelight for 10+ years" requirement.

Posted by: azaghal1981 | February 24, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand BEP's appeal, either. Then again, remember what happened to Outkast.

Posted by: bs2004 | February 24, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

As a casual listener on some radio stations, "I got a feeling" is one of those songs that gets tiring after about the third listening. How...!? Ah, whatever. to each his or her own.


Posted by: jhtlag1 | February 24, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I guess you gotta like the Peas. If you do, the show was great. The sound quality was lame up in the nosebleeds, but their performance was excellent. Too much time spent on Where Is the Love, not enough from previous cd's. We went home very satisfied, the 40-somethings and the 10 year olds.

Posted by: llirpa1 | February 24, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I bet the kids liked the concert! That's all that matters.

I am sure the kids loved this concert, just like the old heads love chicago and the Rolling Stones today like it was back in the 70s.

I don't know why the Washpost even bothers to critique concerts. "ill paced?" If those are your thoughts you should not be there to begin with. Did they play the songs you wanted to hear and did they sound good. you can also add in were there fine girls (or guys)there as well. That's it! that's all the kids care about.

It's not real art so why bother with the critique. With these modern groups that cannot really sing, esp. rap groups, sound does not even matter. ill paced and murky? this review just reeks of being overly anal.

Posted by: oknow1 | February 24, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I stopped listening to the Pea's as SOON as I knew Fergie was being signed. IT was a forced marriage. The rest is history.

Posted by: cbmuzik | February 24, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Worst band ever...

Posted by: ozpunk | February 24, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

What Fergie does have that Lady Gaga lacks, is a singing voice. And what has that Bono lacks, is song writing ability.

So there you go.

Posted by: screwjob2 | February 24, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I question the integrity of this review. It's obvious that Chris Richards went in with a bias and looked for all of the evidence he could find to support that bias. I was there and the concert was fun, the music was good and the crowd loved it. That's what I went in hoping to see and BEP delivered.

Posted by: Roosteryou | February 24, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Went to the conceret and was VERY disappointed. Love their music but they can't put on a decent concert. Tina Turner at 70 was better. Had good seats but not where you could see closeup like in article pics. They had two screens on each side of the stage but u thought you were looking at 60" screens. WHY did they not use the center screens where they would have had 4 screens working and enhance the show so much better. Way overpriced for a subpar concernt and not a show. I gues PUMP IT is all that is happening to their bank accounts as they get bigger.

Posted by: hdrdking02 | February 24, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

The concert ... one word "ROCKING"
Have always been a fan of BEP since my 20s and love them even more in my 30s and so does my 7yr old daughter. Concert was fantastic, costumes were amazing, and I could not stop dancing the whole time. David Guetta opening show was awesome.

Posted by: Techgal | February 24, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

@EricS2 -- "3 black guys" and a "white gal."?? How about 1 African American, 1 Asian (Filipino) American, 1 Mexican American, and 1 Native American/European. Guess you judge on looks alone, but look into people's histories before you put them into your own racial categories; they've stated how they categorize themselves.

Posted by: bberg991 | February 24, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Chris Richards, it must suck to be you. They made you review a concert of a band you hate! Since I haven't been to all of the other concerts Chris has been to, I will actually judge the concert on its own merits.

I enjoyed the concert very much. I thought the stage and lighting were great. The sound was a bit off at times. I was wondering if Fergie was lip-synching.'s mic went out.

I agree with the other commenter about using the center screens, but I guess it would have interfered with Taboo's motorcycle ride. I also thought the dj part was a bit long. I was starting to fall asleep. Other than that, I enjoyed myself and got my money's worth in the nosebleed seats!

Posted by: cwarddc | February 24, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Why critique a sold out concert by a group that you already have seen. If it sold out someone like it. We all have seen them before. I went to Parlament Funkadelic concerts as a kid. They werent always the best stage act or sounded that good live but the point was they landed the mothership and thats what I came for. The P's are just this generations P-Funk. Enjoy kids.

Posted by: ged0386 | February 24, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I hear what you're saying about the endorsements. Why worry about digital rights management when every song is chock full of product placement ads!

Can you imagine if artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, James Taylor, etc had polluted all their work with ad jingles? More to the point - what music would exist now if Fergie, Kei$ha, et al were not "on they niche" in today's musical ecosystem. Unfortunately, today's kids are utterly unaware of what music might exist if not for these ad-songs, except for the minority in the indie scene.

Kei$ha really crosses the line by peddling Jack Daniels to teens and pre-teens. I'm a dad, and I'm going to put a stop to it. Who's with me? If you are, send me a note at Viral Media Productions.

Will. / Ferg/ Apl / Taboo - if you're reading this, do me the favor of getting in touch and I'll suggest a way to transcend this problem and discover where is the love again.


Posted by: dkbain1 | February 24, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I would prefer a show that gave me my dollars worth...then to short change me because of thier name and stardom. The Peas are an innovated group... the create the "NEW FORMMAT" that is soon duplicated or attempted by others. Anyone who does not get that...Are Truly not FANs....

Ferrie... ROCKS!!!!!

Posted by: Puddlescited | February 24, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

A bunch of talentless posers deliver their "product" to an adoring, standard-less audience. Yawn. 30 years from now, nobody will remember who these people are, unless maybe some of their commercials are still playing.

Posted by: mr_bill_10 | February 24, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

they are the village people, right down to the silly cookie-cutter personas and outfits they wear.

Posted by: joshuasto | February 24, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

When you entire act is full of props or one big prop its easy to lose sight of any talent.

This group never had any talent just a blackman pretending to be anything but black mixed with rejects from the grudge world.

I do not know any blackmen that owns a BEP track, disc, CD, I do not know any African Americans that would pay to see a blackman in black face and wearing sparkles.

BEP is what wrong with the music industry no substance just props, track acts with the media mechine promoting them like they really had talent.

Posted by: blkisin | February 24, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

3 Dark folks and a Methhead.

Posted by: Etek | February 24, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break. BEP present pop music. And the concert was fun. Not every touring group needs to be Green Day.

Posted by: MSH-Hill | February 24, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

This is a terrible review -- and not in the way the author intended. Chris Richards obviously hates everything about the BEP. So there's no way on earth that Chris Richards could possibly like a BEP concert. It's like sending me to review a Jonas Brothers show. But if forced to do so I like to think I'd at least I'd try to conceal my contempt and just review the show on its merits. That doesn't mean ignoring the crappy music or pretending I'm a fan, but it does mean at least trying to check my loathing at the door.

Otherwise what's the point? Why not just skip the show and write "I hate the BEP so I assume their show sucked. The set was probably cool and the light show was probably over the top in an at-times good way, but their music is so crappy and the band so commercial and processed and fake that as a show it couldn't have any merit. So I skipped it and jotted this "review" down on a cocktail napkin. If you spent your money on this show, there's something the matter with you."

That about right, Chris?

Next time try reviewing the show as a show and, you know, being a journalist and stuff. Do your job. Hate the show or like it, I don't care. But when you not only bring your bias to the table but go so far as to turn it into a centerpiece, that's not criticism. It's just ranting.

Posted by: dcpost1 | February 24, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Richards:

Just enjoy the show -- that's what it is. If you want pure music, put on a CD. The Black Eyed Peas bring a different element to performing. Have a drink, enjoy the arts, and stop listening to Barry Manilow.

Posted by: MDK8 | February 26, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

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