ARTS

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May 16, 2006

Commercials and bad videos can’t stop the beat of Peas and Pussycat Dolls

Picture yourself going 80 miles per hour down a highway in a fireball-red sedan with plush leather seats and a $10,000 Alpine stereo system. Now imagine Black Eyed Peas logos adorning the headrests and hood of the car—in addition to gold specs lining the interior and exterior—and you have one of the main promotions of the 2006 Honda Civic Tour. The tour encompasses over 40 U.S. cities, stretching from Sacramento to Denver. With each stop, the Peas have a fresh chance to display the superb quality of Honda’s new baby while showcasing their undeniable talent.

The Aragon Ballroom was the venue of choice. Defined by its elaborate and elegant designs, the Aragon seems ideal for a Shakespeare play. However, on May 6, the Peas—along with up-and-comers the Pussycat Dolls and Flipsyde—transformed this classy ballroom into a veritable fiesta.

Hours before the concert, Kiss FM set up shop across from the theater, giving away meet-and-greet passes with the Pussycat Dolls, free tickets, and even a car. Around the corner of the theater was the extensive queue for those who had purchased their tickets beforehand. Representatives of Verizon Wireless and the Peas paraded around with various contests allowing fans to win the aforementioned Honda Civic, money, and other goodies. Finally, the doors opened and all hell broke loose.

After an hour of Honda commercials and so-so music videos, Flipsyde bombarded the stage. Led by a wailing guitar and D-Sharp scratching the turntables, the boys played an array of tunes, from their upbeat “Spun” to their rhythmic “Revolutionary Beat,” each featuring the prolific guitar abilities of Dave Lopez, husky vocals of Steve Knight, and strident rhymes of MC Piper. During their performance of their debut single “Someday,” Flipsyde encouraged audience members to wave peace signs in the air in honor of the U.S. troops in Iraq.

Mediocre music videos and Honda promos resumed for the half-hour intermission after Flipsyde. Suddenly, the general lighting went out and the stage was aglow as the Pussycat Dolls sashayed onto the stage. Backed by their latest chart-topper “Buttons,” the Dolls pleased the crowd (or at least the straight men) with their sensual moves. “Beep” fused itself into the mix as the girls cut a rug alongside a recorded Will.i.am (even though he was performing live with the Peas later that night).

Lead singer Nicole put the dancing on hold, giving the audience a brief history of the Dolls. Rather than merely describing their humble beginnings, Jessica, Ashley, and Kimberly took the stage to give a vintage chair dance to a hip-hop remix of the Pink Panther theme. Carmit and Melody joined them in singing and grinding to their version of the burlesque classic “Fever.” The stage emptied, and Nicole reentered to give an endearing interpretation of “Feeling Good.” Nicole then proceeded to belt out the Dolls’ R&B jam “Stickwitu,” with Carmit and Melody harmonizing on the first chorus and the rest of the Dolls later completing the vocal chords.

The Dolls can’t stay still too long, so they held a dance-off, which led right into the bright and confident “Wait a Minute.” They saved their best for last, ending their set with their first smash “Don’t Cha,” replacing Busta Rhymes’s lyrics with their own ballsy lyrics: “I know I’m on your mind/ I know we’ll have a good time/ I’m your friend/ I’m fun/ And I’m fine/ I ain’t lying/ Look at me/ You ain’t blind.”

By this point, everyone is used to waiting, so the crappy music videos don’t even faze the audience. Once again, the lights dim, but this time the crowd goes wild. To our surprise, a video pops on the LCD screen. A host states that we will get an exclusive preview of the Peas backstage. We are instead led to a press conference with fake Peas (including a transvestite version of Fergie).

The imposters leave the 2D world and become 3D, running onto the stage and attempting to play us a concert. No worries. The real Peas save the day, conquering the stage and starting the party right away with their booty-shaking theme “Hey Mama.” They keep the crowd bouncing with their Elephunk classic “Hands Up” and jump to Monkey Business with “Disco Club,” featuring Taboo dancing and proudly displaying his Mexican heritage via a flag that he carried for most (if not the whole) of the concert. “Dum Diddly” followed with former member Danté Santiago adding his vocals. The Peas teased fans with an interlude from “Smells Like Phunk” but instead performed the Behind the Front track “Joints & Jams.” Slowing the pace down, the crowd grooved to the relaxing beat of “Don’t Lie.”

Fergie received a bit of promotion for her rumored solo album, belting out the beloved Guns N’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” remaining onstage for a dramatic staging of “Shutup,” in which she verbally spars with band mate Will.i.am and does one-handed cartwheels with mic in hand.

In fact, everyone got his or her time to shine. Taboo took the stage, displaying his dancing to samples of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” a reggaeton beat, and classic ’90s music. Apl references his Filipino culture by singing a portion of the mellow “Apl Song” and the funky “Bebot,” with the entire crowd screaming the hook “Filipino.” Will.i.am beat-boxes onto the stage supported by a saxophone. And who would have thought that Fergie could give such a rousing performance of “Murder She Wrote”?

The whole gang returned to the stage to mess with fans’ heads, giving false lead-ins to their new single “Pump It.” The Peas dedicated their next song, “Where Is the Love,” to the troops fighting in Iraq, in hopes that they will return home safely (and that Bush will leave office).

After the band pauses to properly introduce themselves, they resume the show with “My Style,” a dance-off, and the playful “Don’t Phunk With My Heart.” The band performs their biggest Billboard hit, “My Humps,” but sadly with much less energy than the rest of the show—probably because there were no real instruments included in this performance. After “Let’s Get Retarded” (which included Fergie swinging her long braided hair around her head like a helicopter blade), they made up a special song for Chicago and bowed out.

If the concert weren’t enough, upon leaving the venue, fans received Dolls lanyards, Peas keychains, posters, and other swag. Black Eyed Peas proved that nobody’s as phunky as they are. As they might say, they truly “kept it stanky.”