The Black Eyed Peas wouldn’t exist without Scotland, maintains founding member apl.de.ap, whose adoptive father hails from this country. And arena audiences are what bandmate Taboo credits with bringing him back from cancer. Eight years after they last toured the UK, the hip-hop pop juggernaut are back sans singer Fergie, the urgency of their speechifying about immigration, gun control and the state of the world only compromised by their crashing commercial crassness and tendency towards saccharine naffness.
The Black Eyed Peas, SSE Hydro, Glasgow ***
Chief driving force and culprit wil.i.am epitomises this, regaling with how he spotted the band’s megahit Where Is The Love? referenced on a Glasgow church sign, his humblebraggery creeping into John Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” territory without the knowing irony. Although less busy and spectacular than BEP’s last live shows, their split pyramid screen stage is mind-bending, a hypnotic marvel morphing between 2D and 3D in the beholder’s eye. Sadly, its main innovation is a sporadic demand for the crowd to use a smart phone app to access its QR code-enabled content. Meanwhile new singer Jessica Reynoso has the requisite big voice, if not Fergie’s stage presence. But her repeated appeals for followers on social media, even spelling out her handle, seems desperate.
As to the music, you can despise the hypocrisy of new, socially aware tracks like Ring The Alarm when wil.i.am performs in and promotes repressive Middle Eastern regimes. But BEP are too oblivious to really hate. And most people are just waiting for the big tunes, the sight of an entire arena bouncing to Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night undeniably impressive. - Jay Richardson