We tried. Honestly, we did. The Spin went to The Sommet Center to see Black Eyed Peas with as much of an open mind as we could muster, but we still left with a sour taste in our mouth. We had been taken to task by a dear old friend for re-circulating a blog post titled "Everything Is Will.i.am's Fault," and because we trust the aesthetic judgment of our buddy, and because she personally vouched for the character of Mr. ".am," we decided to check out the world's biggest poop group -- er, pop group. We swear we tried to give it a fair shake. Honestly.
For all intents and purposes it was a solid show -- from the Tron light-cycle that rode over the crowd at one point to the Lawnmower Man-style graphics, the production values were high enough to distract us from the middling quality of the music. The premise of the entire tour is that Black Eyed Peas are bringing the "club" to "you" for an "authentic" nightlife experience -- this is obviously all predicated on the idea that "you" are rarely awake during the 10 o'clock news and never, ever set foot in an actual nightclub. Since we spend the majority of our life in nightclubs, we just found the DJ in the mezzanine and all the people with blinking LED sunglasses (indoors! at night!) to be fucking annoying.
To Black Eyed Peas' credit, they finally figured out how to polish a turd, and for that we will always respect them. The epic stage show they brought out with them was an impressive bit of production, what with the giant video screens and the gaggle of dancers in silly robot outfits and the crane/stage flooring that lifted Will.i.am and his DJ booth high above the crowd. Oh, wait, that crane wasn't very impressive -- it could've been, but it broke in mid-air, which y'know, was kinda hilarious in a Spinal Tap sort of way. OK, there were parts of the show we enjoyed, but we definitely enjoyed them for all the wrong reasons.
The one thing we really, really didn't enjoy was the blatant product placement, for a certain consumer electronics brand that shall remain nameless, during the faux-rebellious album cut "Now Generation." We don't have a problem with corporate sponsorship -- big, fancy tours are expensive, and sadly, 90 bucks a ticket doesn't really cover cost the way it should -- but there should be a wall of separation between the performance and the advertising. We were fine with the bombardment of ads in the lobby, on the sidewalk, on more or less every inch of available space outside the arena -- it's part of living in the 21st century. But when an artist makes a blatant detour from the overall aesthetic -- like, say, delving into live-action footage after an entire evening of computer-generated animation -- to squeeze some extra cash out of their underwriter, we think it violates a sacred trust between artists and their audience.
Don't get us wrong, we're not some self-loathing, self-congratulatory Adbusters subscribers who like to pretend we can live in a world with nothing but our liberal arts degree and a Rage Against the Machine album -- almost all of our favorite artists have done the capitalist tango with Corporate America, and shit, we all have to make a living. But it's exceptionally tacky to include blatant product placement in the middle of a show AFTER the audience has been bludgeoned over the head with marketing from the moment they got within two blocks of the venue. Can't we agree, as a culture, to maybe lay off the ads for an hour and a half? What if we promise to reconsider our cellular contract when we get home? We're broke as shit and couldn't buy an overpriced new gizmo if we wanted to, but sure, we'll consider it -- just let us watch the fucking show without gettin' felt up by Madison Avenue. It's bad enough we can't listen to a BEP song without mentally cataloging every single licensing deal they signed in their quest for world domination -- we just wanted a brief respite from the blatant money grab.
Does this sort of thing matter to your average Black Eyed Peas fan? No, it definitely doesn't. Hell, the lady in front of us was using her digital camera to take pictures of herself taking pictures of the show with her cell phone -- basically being as meta-annoying as humanly possible. That said, "I Gotta Feeling" is a sincerely catchy piece of pop fluff that we do kinda like, and Black Eyed Peas do know how to distract a crowd from their mediocrity with shiny, shiny things -- so there's that. Mazel tov!