Black Eyed Peas - Manchester Apollo - 20.12.05

Midway through tonight's set Taboo announces that, "Hip Hop is still alive in Manchester" before launching into the old skool hip hop vibes the Black Eyed Peas had in their pre-Fergie days. It's ironic that they're still craving hip-hop when they gave up on that artform years ago, but in ditching their original ideology they've become one of the best pop bands to come out of America in years.

Designer Magazine first met the Black Eyed Peas a few years ago around the time of their "Request Line" single with Macy Gray, but little survives in their live set from those early days. Instead we get "Hey Mama" changed into a charged bootleg version with Gun's N Roses "Sweet Child O Mine" tagged onto the end of it "Shut Up" features Fergie's amazing acrobats across the stage where she still manages to hold those note perfect vocal histrionics.

Elsewhere we get "Pump It" with it's Tarantino style guitar riffs Dick Dale style and "Where Is The Love?" still has a resonance with these times years after it was released. At the time it talked about post September 11th America and now with the war still with no sign of end the lyrics still hit home like a GCSE version of "What's Going On?" for the noughties.

With their Blaxploitation pantomime chic the BEP's always work best when they put they just freak out on a pure novelty track which takes over the airwaves. Delivering a double whammy tonight they launch into "My Humps" which features enough booty shaking from Fergie to bring the house down, following by "Lets Get It Started"

A great way to end the year, but how long can it be before Fergie launches a solo career and the rest of Black Eyed Peas are faced with the dilemma of whether they return to their roots or try to carry on flying the pop flag without her

Alex McCann