Black Eyed Peas, Jazz Cafe, London

Jazz Cafe, London

Favouring old-skool B-Boy style over bling-bling, and celebrating life not the gun, Black Eyed Peas have always been too good to be true for the ghetto-fabulous hip-hop community. Demonised by their peers and ignored by the mainstream, they made a pact with the devil. And his name was Justin Timberlake.

Though it is unquestionably the strangled vocals and tight trousers of Timberlake that propelled the single Where Is the Love to number one, it is the Black Eyed Peas' optimistic attitude and sense of timing that kept it there.

Their dedication to creating "positive, progressive music" with an all-star cast first reaped rewards on 2000's critically acclaimed album Bridging the Gap, featuring Macy Gray and De La Soul. Post 9/11 - the events of which provided inspiration for their chart topper - the Black Eyed Peas' brand of touchy-feely social commentary fuels the globe's love affair with rap while soothing its conscience.

"Who gives a fuck about America right now? Who gives a fuck about Iraq?" asks, with the brazen self-satisfaction of a lottery winner. The crowd mumbles, his opinions as fashionable as his beige suit and trilby. Taboo, despite having wrapped a red bandana under a Miss Marple-style hat, keeps a straight, rapper-demanding-respect face, posing in his camouflage suit like a toy soldier. is his personable nemesis.

As the jump-around party sound of Hands Up begins, the hierarchy kicks in. Taboo acts as club rep leading a bouncy singalong, as spits out an abrasive chorus. Newest member of the group, singer Stacey "Fergie" Ferguson, combines the fresh-face appeal of Madonna in the early 1980s with the unsubtle but soulful larynx of Taylor Dane.

The old songs - notably Karma and Positivity - look uninspired next to their new shimmering melodies. In the aggressive Shut Up, Ferguson and impress as warring protagonists. Fly Away is a sassy Dear John letter and the stupid but anthemic Let's Get Retarded beats Limp Bizkit at the rap-rock game.

The intimate atmosphere is perfect for party turns. A freestyle rap details the dubious delights of Oxford Street and Camden, while and Taboo can't resist spinning on their heads for a breakdance showdown.

· Ends tonight. Box office: 020-7916 6060.


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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