Black Eyed Peas - Manchester Apollo - 19.2.04
Last time the Black Eyed Peas played Manchester no-one could have predicted that just a few years later they'd be headlining the very same venue. At the time the Peas were a struggling hip hop act virtually unknown outside the hip hop community and for a brief moment where they flirted with Macy Gray's soul vibes it looked as if they'd have the obligatory cross over hit before fading back into obscurity. There's so many factors involved in the rise of the Peas and they're all intertwined, but the major shift happened when they guys brought in Fergie, who in turn brought Timberlake in for "Where Is The Love?" and that in turn became an international album for World Peace just as their countries President was the bombing the f**k out of Iraq.
If 2003 was the year that the Black Eyed Peas took over the airwaves, cable channels and every award show on the planet, then 2004 is the year they take over the live circuit. This short tour is just a warm up in the UK for what's going to come over the summer when they set up home here to record their new album and stamp their indelible mark on the European Festival Circuit. If tonight's show is anything to go by it's going to be one hell of a ride. Hip hop acts are notoriously bad, but the Peas touch all bases and manage to educate people through the language of hip hop on a whole series of levels. The pure old skool vaudeville vibes are present throughout tonight show - break dancing, clowning - all you'd expect from watching the "Shut Up" video yet in the live arena the energy doesn't drop for over an hour and a half. "Lets Get Retarded" is an anthem of mammoth proportions and blows the joint up, "Hey Mama" shimmies and gets the people of their feet and on "Where Is The Love?" the crowd nearly drown out the band. When the band dip into their back catalogue the results are less successful. When Will- I-Am asks the crowd how many people were here when we played 2 years ago there's about 5 people who respond. It's at the roots of why people love or hate the Black Eyed Peas. True hip hop heads don't see the Peas as a hip hop act and in truth they've shifted so far left to pop you wonder exactly where the next record will go.
For a band entrenched in hip hop roots to sell out a venue this size is an achievement, but to walk away with people vying for more in unbelievable. 50 Cent and the Def Jam tour recently hit town and left people disappointed, for the Peas to come from virtual unknowns and win through in just over a year is mind-blowing. Here's to next time.
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