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Concert review: Black Eyed Peas at 1st Mariner Arena

Much fuss has been made about The Black Eyed Peas selling out. Target, Apple, Best Buy, Nokia, Pepsi -- no corporate sponsor is turned away by the pop stars, it seems.

So what?

Any criticism of the band's success was drowned last night in the sea of fans who mobbed 1st Mariner Arena last night to bounce in place along Fergie, Will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo.

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Aside from a few slow spots, the show was a ball of electricity, with the Peas tearing through hit after hit...

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Backed by a DJ and four-piece live band, the Peas rose through the floorboards one by one, lit up in green laser light, fog curling at their feet, and burst into the first song, "Let's Get It Started." The show was pretty much the same as their Verizon Center performance in Washington a few months ago, with some minor set list changes.

The staging had digital bells and whistles by the boatload, and the costumes were one big sparkle-fest. Remember what people thought the future would look like back in the '80s? It kinda resembled that.

Halfway through the show, rapper Taboo rose from the stage atop a neon-glowing motorcycle (a la "Tron"), which he rode out above the crowd, suspended from the ceiling while doing "Rockin' to the Beat." Fergie emerged in a shiny metal outfit that looked like something from the Silverhawks, and made a handful of wardrobe changes over the course of the night.

Fergie doesn't get enough attention as a singer. She's dexterous enough to lilt through a ballad or shriek out a rock song, and though she warbled a bit last night, her performance was solid on the whole.

In the middle of the show, each Pea had their own solo spots. The mohawked apl.de.ap did "Mare," Taboo rode his laser bike, Fergie-Ferg sang a smattering of her solo hits and Will.i.am spun house and pop songs in a mini-DJ set. After 15 minutes of listening to Will.i.am (dressed like Robocop) play hits from Michael Jackson, Journey and the like and give endless shout-outs to Baltimore, I was ready to get back to the Peas' own material. We didn't come to see Will.i.am do his DJ thing, we came to see the Peas.

While most of the show felt pre-planned, one moment stuck out as off-the-cuff: Will.i.am free-styled around texts fans had supposedly sent in earlier that night.

The Peas' recipe for selling albums is to throw together songs with irresistible grooves, big hooks and accessible lyrics. The urgent beat of "Boom Boom Pow" and sharp keyboard riff of "I've Got a Feeling" had the audience jumping. Near the end of the night, confetti cannons went off, firing countless colored scraps of paper into the air. The crowd soaked in the moment, knowing in spite of all the commercialization and crazy theatrics, they'd gotten what they came for: a party.

The Black Eyed Peas went on at 8:37 p.m. Here is the set list:

Let's Get it Started
Meet Me Halfway
Don't Phunk With My Heart
Will.i.am freestyle
Imma Be
My Humps
Missing You
apl.de.ap: Mare
Taboo: Rockin' to the Beat
Fergie: Fergalicious, Glamorous, Big Girls Don't Cry
Will.i.am DJ set
Pump It
Where is the Love?

Encore

Boom Boom Pow
I've Got a Feeling

(Baltimore Sun photos by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

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