Black Eyed Peas, 02, London
Iggy and the Stooges, Hammersmith Apollo, London
Black Eyed Peas put on a polished show, but their all-consuming desire to push products – even Fergie's new perfume – takes off some of the shine
Sunday 09 May 2010
Hard as it is to believe, there really was a time when Black Eyed Peas were just another hip-hop outfit, their popularity on a par with third-wave Daisy Agers such as Ghosts and backpacker rappers like Jurassic 5, happy to play to a modest constituency of stoners and students.
It took Justin Timberlake's patronage to change all that. In retrospect, the band's pacifist plea "Where Is the Love" (featuring a JT cameo) was a watershed, the last gasp of the groovy liberal BEP and the birth of the ruthless hit machine they've since become. From that global smash onwards, it's been all about Fergie, her humps, her lovely lady lumps and her boom boom pow.
In 2010, the Peas' consciousness has faded to black. For example, The End tour is sponsored by Bacardi, a company that props up the obscene blockade of Cuba. But hey, in for a dime, in for a dollar and morals be damned. One wonders whether there's anyone BEP would say no to, having hawked anything from Pepsi to BlackBerry. And if they aren't pimping other people's products, they're selling their own: on arrival, everyone's handed a sampler of Fergie's new perfume Outspoken, but I'm scared to find out what it smells like. (Yes, there may come a day when I can get through a Black Eyed Peas review without mentioning the incident when Fergie wet herself on stage, but it's some way off.)
As ruthless hit machines go, they're not bad at it. The Black Eyed Peas arena show has a fairly standard cyber-glitz aesthetic. The Transformer-like dancers who turn into metallic speaker boxes are pretty fly, the Spiderwoman/Mighty Morphin Power Ranger hybrids less so.
Each member gets a special moment in the spotlight. will.i.am plays a heart-shaped piano, pretend-DJs on a fake console for a ridiculously long time, and raps a freestyle based on tweets sent by the audience which ends at head-spinning velocity. Apl.De.Ap does backflips on the stage's penile promontory. Taboo rides a Tron bike over our heads.
Fergie gets a whole mini-gig to herself, and it has to be conceded that "Glamorous" is a gorgeous tune. Also, her pitch control, if it isn't autotune assisted, is impressive. More so than her bladder control, in any case.
Closing the show with all-consuming pop-rock monster "I've Got a Feeling" is a peculiar decision, given its lyrical promise "tonight's gonna be a good night". Then again, as Kierkegaard wrote, life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards. When Black Eyed Peas' career flashes before their eyes, they can finally answer the question "Where Is the Love?". They sold it.
Iggy Pop is nominally something of a cuddly figure now, but you'd never believe that after the Stooges have laid waste to Hammersmith with their 1973 classic Raw Power. It makes sense to bring Iggy and the Stooges' third album back to the city where, at the invitation of David Bowie, they recorded it in a studio at the foot of the Post Office Tower and where, only a few months earlier, they played their first concert outside the US in front of a crowd which included a 16-year-old Johnny Rotten and Mick Jones.
Before his belated 1980s hit "Real Wild One", the existence of Iggy Pop was just a rumour you heard from other kids with older brothers, and Raw Power never scraped the Top 100, but its influence reached the right people. It was on regular rotation in McLaren and Westwood's shop "Sex" during the germination of punk. Kurt Cobain named it his favourite album of all time. So did Johnny Marr.
Iggy's original cut was remixed by Bowie against Iggy's will, and the pair have bickered publicly ever since over whose is the superior version. A "Masters Edition" of Bowie's mix has just been released by Sony, but it's difficult to imagine what you possibly could do to Raw Power that wouldn't make it sound like a gang-fight inside a rusty trash can.
And, 37 years on, Osterberg's revelling in performing it. His hair is now silver by nature, but he retains that extraordinary musculature, a tangle of bungee cords and suspension bridge cables wrestling for supremacy underneath a leathery skin tarpaulin, as he prowls in that unmistakable gait.
He instigates a stage invasion for "Shake Appeal", only the third song. Two songs later, he's taking on the crowd on their turf, jeans slipping down to expose his pubic mound, builders' bumcrack and the first few inches of his famous penis.
In case you hadn't heard, the Stooges – James Williamson, Scott Asheton, Steve Mackay and Mike Watt of Minutement/fIREHOSE (recruited after the death of Ron Asheton in 2009) – are sounding fearsome right now. I've never seen pogoing at the back of the hall before.
It isn't long before they tear up the script and gleefully plunder the rest of the back-cat: "1970", "I Wanna Be Your Dog", "Cock in My Pocket", "I Got a Right" and proto-punk anthem "Kill City" ("We don't believe in anything/We don't stand for nothin' ...").
There's one moment that sums up everything. Steve Mackay's tooting some free jazz on the sax when, suddenly, Iggy kills it by thumping his mic into a speaker bin to force a screech of feedback. The Stooges in microcosm: high art destroyed by lowdown dirty kicks. Gimme danger? You got it.
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