Live: Black Eyed Peas at Sun Life Stadium, November 23
|Photo by Sayre Berman|
With Cee Lo Green, Jason DeRulo, T-Pain, Sean Kingston, Flo Rida, DJ Smiley, and host Queen Latifah
Sun Life Stadium, Miami
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
For a slide show from the concert, click here.
Better than: Listening to the radio.
The idea of an all-star lineup to support the Black Eyed Peas' final show before an indefinite hiatus was certainly good in theory, but the logistics of scheduling so many performers ensured that only the most punctual and traffic-savvy would have caught Flo Rida and Sean Kingston. But there was a long night ahead. Saying goodbye, for this group, is not something to be rushed.
The returning T-Pain seemed to greet the relatively subdued 7.30 p.m. crowd as a challenge, and his distinctive Auto-Tuned rhymes and skittering beats were greeted enthusiastically. He dominated the stage with the strut and charisma of a natural performer, and the closing combo of DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win" and a bombastic version of "All the Above" brought some vital energy to the proceedings.
One senses a 20-minute, five-song warm-up set for this crowd would have been ideal for Miami-born Jason DeRulo, with a string of radio singles that have been omnipresent during the past two years. He rolled out all the hits -- "Whatcha Say," "In My Head," and "Ridin Solo" -- and some impressively crisp beats are coming from somewhere, but lacking T-Pain's swag and explosive delivery, it felt more labored than effortless. He may be a hometown hero, but he also seems somewhat of a rookie playing stadiums.
Cee Lo Green had no such problem as he took the stage wearing a peach-golden tracksuit -- first bringing out Miami crunk legend Trick Daddy, then joined by fellow members of iconic Atlanta hip-hop crew Goodie Mob. A rousing version of his Gnarls Barkley track "Crazy" segued into the inevitable closing rendition of the crowd-supported "Fuck You," and it felt like somewhat of a master class of how to own a stage in under 25 minutes.
The lights then went up and there followed a 45-minute intermission to allow people to fuel up, visit the bar, strategically hustle for better seats, and embark on a few aborted Mexican waves. When the Black Eyed Peas finally hit the stage to an impressively futuristic neon stage and light show, they launched straight into their accumulation of hits with all the assurance and consummate professionalism of one of the biggest bands in the world.
"Meet You Halfway," "Don't Stop the Party," and radio song of the year "Just Can't Get Enough" captured the band at its best -- razor-sharp, hip-hop-infused pop music that, for better or worse, has become a pervasive soundtrack to many during the past few years. Will.i.am's wired impromptu freestyle rap was delivered with the intensity of someone playing his last show for a long time, and when the crew dipped into earlier and lesser-known material such as "Shut Up" from 2000's Elephunk and the funk-infused "Joints and Jams," from their 1998 debut, it felt less like a midset lull and more like the calm before the storm and a recognition of their past.
A quick costume change and Fergie took the stage to perform two poignantly delivered solo tracks, then exited to allow Will.i.am to take center stage on a raised platform and blast out Usher's "OMG" as he began a DJ set. What would have been a good idea for maybe ten minutes descended into a tedious and slightly surreal half-hour. While some tracks were fun and unexpected (Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams") and dropping tracks by David Guetta and his very recent collaboration with J-Lo and Mick Jagger ("T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)") are logical inclusions, throwing in artists like Michael Jackson, Nirvana, and even Blur and Red Hot Chili Peppers acted like a reminder of what the Peas aren't and never will be.
By the time he was done, any tightness in the set seemed to have dissipated into the ether, and versions of "Pump It" and "Where Is The Love?" were elongated to stadium cliché level. Taboo bringing his mother onto the stage and offering some heartfelt words was a nice moment, and asking the crowd to hold lights in the air was admittedly aesthetically impressive, but the sense that time is getting on and the band was enjoying the experience more than the crowd was tangible. It's difficult not to feel sorry for poor Apl.de.ap. Not only did he often seem the most marginalized of the Peas but his chance to take the stage on his own for a quick run-through of "We Can Be Anything" -- as a platform for giving exposure to his very admirable education advocacy campaign in the Philippines -- felt rushed. By now, some people were leaving, and the remaining were clearly impatient for the final home run of closing hits.
The closing trio of "Boom Boom Pow," "The Time (Dirty Bit)," and of course "I Gotta Feeling" were greeted with a sense of euphoric relief yet were also received by somewhat of a depleted crowd. What should have been a career-defining apex felt more like a natural conclusion. In fairness, potentially final shows the evening before Thanksgiving come along only once in a band's lifespan, and the Black Eyed Peas gave their adopted home of Miami a fine farewell. It would perhaps be churlish to deny the band these indulgences, which seemed wholly sincere in intention; having conquered mainstream music during the past couple of years, a few years away to regroup seems not just deserved but highly opportune.
Personal bias: The first and last time I saw the Peas was in their edgy, hip-hop, pre-Fergie days 11 years ago, playing in between indie-hardcore heroes ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and emo purveyors the Get Up Kids.
The crowd: Pop music fans of all ages, shapes and sizes -- whether that be a 4-year-old kid or a silver-dreadlocked hippie in his 60s wearing a Grateful Dead T-shirt.
Overheard in the crowd #1: "When is Marc Anthony playing?" -- not overheard, asked directly, by someone who clearly didn't have a clue what was going on.
Overheard in the crowd #2: "I feel like I'm being held against my will" - Will.i.am's DJ set takes another victim.
Rock That Body
Meet Me Halfway
Just Can't Get Enough
Don't Stop the Party
Don't Phunk With My Heart
Joints and Jams
Big Girls Don't Cry (Fergie)
Wil.i.am DJ Set
Where Is the Love?
We Can Be Anything (apl.de.ap)
Boom Boom Pow
The Time (Dirty Bit)
I've Got a Feeling