Black Eyed Peas, Brixton Academy, London

Brixton Academy, London

Almost alone among hiphoppers, the Black Eyed Peas have a sense of humility, so they must cringe at their label's hype. Whoever decided this amiable LA fourpiece are "a global phenomenon, the likes of which the music world has rarely seen" needs to get a grip.

Their six-week reign at number one in the singles chart with Where Is the Love? probably made a few realitypop turns foam with envy, but they're several continents short of a phenomenon. It's at this platinum-selling but anonymous midpoint that they seem destined to remain - but at least they have a live show befitting their status. That is to say, they put on an uplifting display that left you feeling fuzzily benevolent but not entirely sure you'd recognise them the next day.

Their Fugees-like configuration (three male rappers and a tiny but mighty female singer) and equal-opportunities ethos saw each member given too much time to do their own thing, while their ensemble numbers were scenes of jovial chaos.

The first 20 minutes were piddled away on rambling party jams from the 2003 album Elephunk and the lesser-known first two CDs. Long on socially aware content but short on tunes, these half-dozen songs ended up so much grist to the good-vibes mill, lyrics reduced to a stream of unintelligible bonhomie. That's what happens when three men shout at once.

At least they seemed to be having a good time: leader Will.I.Am breakdanced, singer Fergie turned cartwheels, and Taboo and Apl.De.Ap hung onto each other's shoulders like burly cancan girls. The situation cried out for a despot to take control and focus on the solid melodies in their best material.

Eventually Fergie rose to the occasion. Her mighty lungs made the domestic drama Shut Up and new song Pump It sparky and compelling. Where Is the Love? was ramped up several notches, too, from worthily dull singalong to blaring anthem. There's a solo career brewing in there. Watch out for her.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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