Black Eyed Peas bring that boom boom pow to NYC's Madison Square Garden

Black-Eyed-PeasImage Credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty ImagesThe Black Eyed Peas are ridiculous. I suspect that they know this. It’s the whole point of their post-2003 career: will.i.am, in particular, is a first-class musical genius whose greatest talent happens to be making deeply silly songs about partying and fun and world peace and stuff. Hitting those marks as precisely as the Peas do is much harder than it looks, which is why they demolished several chart records last year and every other dance-pop act out there did not. (Just this morning, they made Billboard history once again, as “Imma Be” became their third single from The E.N.D. to hit No. 1 on the Hot 100. ) But can the Black Eyed Peas’ undeniable studio skills translate to a live setting? I went to their headlining concert at NYC’s Madison Square Garden last night (pictured) to find out.

As pure spectacle, the show often delivered. Robots! Lasers! Sequins! Masks! Leather! The futuristic theme was reminiscent of Kanye West’s 2008 Glow in the Dark tour, with the Peas’ party-all-the-time aesthetic in place of Kanye’s grandiose introspection. The sound mix made it difficult to discern the Peas’ lyrics at times, but that hardly mattered. We could certainly hear the all-important boom-boom-pow beats clearly enough. Visually, things stayed busy, even frenetic, with constant costume changes and scenery shifts to keep us entertained.

Yet the spirit of ecstatic excess that’s so crucial to the Peas’ recorded work can backfire in concert. In between the barrage of hits, we got sideshow after sideshow, all seemingly with the goal of putting as many crazy things as possible on stage. will.i.am freestyled while fans’ text messages — “Will you ask Fergie if I can have her outfit after the show?” — appeared on a pair of huge screens. Fergie and apl.de.ap had a serious conversation about the merits of New York pizza. And each Pea got a solo showcase to him- or herself midway through the evening. Fergie’s was fantastic, since she is a confident live singer with actual solo hits like “Fergalicious,” “Glamorous,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” apl.de.ap and Taboo’s respective sets were fine but superfluous, unless you consider the sight of Taboo flying overhead on a suspended motorcycle to be a necessary one. will.i.am’s solo turn, however, was something close to a disaster. Instead of performing any of his solid solo singles, Will chose to play DJ, spinning random rock tunes by Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Journey, and Guns N’ Roses for no apparent reason. In a nightclub after a few drinks, or perhaps at a cousin’s bar mitzvah party in the same condition, I suppose this might have been enjoyable. But in the middle of a Black Eyed Peas concert? It was at this point that I scrawled the letters “WTF” in my notebook.

Still, you’ll note that none of these complaints involve the Black Eyed Peas performing Black Eyed Peas songs. And the show-closing one-two punch of “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling,” with all four Peas on stage while pyrotechnics exploded and confetti flew, more or less made the entire night worth it. I first heard “I Gotta Feeling” almost a year ago, when will.i.am played the Peas’ still-unsequenced new album for a few journalists in a tiny Miami studio. It sounded like a smash hit back then, and of course it was. Last night, I got to hear something like 20,000 people sing that hook at once. Any act that can fill a stadium with that much glee deserves respect.

Were you there at Madison Square Garden last night, or have you seen the Peas in concert recently? Sound off in the comments below.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (28 total) Add your comment
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  • Kate

    Had you meant “ridiculous” in a bad way we would have agreed. The Black Eyed Peas are THE most overrated and ANNOYINGLY BAD group ever! I can’t stand them, can’t stand their horrible “music” and can’t stand that they win awards…they single handedly took away any prestige and honor the Grammys USED to parlay. Go away Peas, please…

    • mishka

      Kate is “ridiculous” and yeah, in a bad way.

  • Kristen

    I saw them back in ’03 or ’04 when they were HUGE. I thought they were pretty fantastic then, and I still think that.

    • SteevoNYC

      I remember seeing them back in 1998 as part of a Giant Step records showcase, right around when Behind The Front was released they had a track on the Bulworth soundtrack. Such a different (and more genuine!) group back then. They used to play over a live, 3-piece band!

  • Jackie

    I love the Peas… Kate is wrong. I’ve seen them live, and NO group has more energy. You can feel it in the whole place. They sound great, look great, and make you want to dance through the show. They had the whole crowd jumping up and down, it was that energetic.
    Also I agree with Fergie’s voice — she can take over with that mike, and her warm, throaty singing is so underappreciated.

    • Amanda

      I agree…Black Eyed Peas played a concert in Pittsburgh to kick off the 2009 NFL season and the energy level was amazing! They may not be the best singers of all time, but they are FANTASTIC performers!

  • Vivi

    One can’t deny their strangle hold on pop culture but that doesn’t change the fact that BEP sound horrible live.

  • so n so

    first class musical genius??! are you serious? he’s a nice guy but his “music” consists of programmed machines and pathetic lyrics. I suspect that’s why your review was pre-occupied with clothes and cheap theatrics…the “music”, such as it is, was pretty lacking. no offense there Simon, but you need to buy some decent albums.

  • Jasmin

    How about an act that sells out MSG four times in a row – with no openers????? You should have gone to the Aventura concert…where their fans sang the hooks to not just one but “EVERY” song. Amazing.

    Love the BEP though! Just wanted to share a little fact that most journalists in mainstream media are unaware of.

  • so n so

    dude, I saw The Who live way back when. there’s no way I’d pay a cent to hear “songs” performed by machines. a Who song like The Punk Meets the Godfather doesn’t just have a vocal hook…it’s got a great guitar riff, verse melody, chorus melody and a bridge melody. what the BEPs do “live” doesn’t compare. their popularity says more about the vacuum in modern pop than the quality of their “music”. I don’t care what they wear.

  • crispy

    I had the unfortunate pleasure of seeing the Black Eyed Peas open for U2. They were horrendous. The sound sucked… you couldn’t understand a word they said.

  • Jen

    I saw the BEP with the Pussycat Dolls years ago. They were awesome and they still are.

    If you hate the BEP, why would you read a review about their concerts?

  • Clayton

    Saw them at OSU a week or so ago. Awesome show

  • Adrienne

    I read the review and looking forward to having a good time when they come to the Detroit area on March 9!

  • Sonia

    Caught the show last night at the Garden. It was amazing!!! They rock. All the haters need to shut up.

    • Magnira

      I saw them at the garden too!! They were absolutely mind-blowingly fantastic.
      I could care less for those opening preformances, though. Yuck.

  • Diana

    I saw the Blacked eyed Peas in DC on tuesday. It was an awesome show, they are great performers

  • Tracy

    I was at the show last night and it was AMAZING!! loved every minute of it and thought that when they sang “Where is the love” that it felt somewhat gospel! I agree that Will-i-am’s set was annoying and rediculous, but Fergie totally got it and held her own during her set. Will def. go see them again-AMAZING NIGHT!!!

  • AK

    I think BEP’s live energy is what makes their music. I didn’t even like “I Gotta Feeling” until I saw it live on “So You Think You Can Dance” last summer; their infectious performance made me finally get what the song was all about. The concert sounds like a blast. I wish I could see it!

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