A legendary party: Black Eyed Peas concert the best Rodeo show in a decade
I thought I had seen this year's RodeoHouston peak when Mary J. Blige created a soulful frenzy on Black Heritage Day at Reliant Stadium. I had no idea that the rodeo was capable of the type of party that took place when the Black Eyed Peas took over the spinning dish.
In a decade of rodeo performances, I have seen Duran Duran, Def Leppard, Alicia Keys, LL Cool J, Bob Dylan, Steve Miller and myriad other non-country performers show up at the rodeo and do their best to incorporate their show into the facilities the rodeo offered.
Not until last night, however, had I ever seen a group make an audience of 75,000-plus forget that they were at a rodeo completely and own that stage.
Perhaps for the first time since the RodeoHouston moved to Reliant Stadium, the performance following the bull and horse competition was a genuine concert. Once the Black Eyed Peas took the stage all that happened before it was forgotten.
Beginning with breakout past hit "Let's Get It Started," the Peas made it clear that just because they were on the rodeo's turf and subject to their production didn't mean they were about to surrender the quality choreographed for their current headlining tour.
Where many artists use the rodeo simply as an easy payday where all the heavy lifting is done for them and all that's required is to show up and sing, the Black Eyed Peas took the unfamiliar stage, lights and production as a challenge.
"How we can make these obstacles work to our benefit," was the vibe emanating from their stage for the entire 10-song, 70-minute set.
Their energy carried into the audience for the most enthusiastic crowd response I have seen in years.
The stage did change the sound of B.E.P.'s heavily produced sound, but they adapted.
Unlike the studio version, the bass beat of new single "Rock That Body," was shoved to the background making the vocals — warts and all — the focal point. Hearing it from this perspective made one appreciate the strength of Fergies's pipes and showcased apl.de.ap as an instrumental bridge between her and wil.i.am.
Fergie, dressed in a shiny body suit designed to morph her into a robotic vixen, shined on the playful "My Humps," (which underwent serious on-the-fly lyrical editing to conform to the rodeo's family aesthetic) and a bonus ballad from her past solo work, "Big Girls Don't Cry."
It was a hard act to follow, but wil.i.am united the crowd with a DJ set, mixing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Nirvana's "Smell Like Teen Spirit," and finally a boisterous sing-along to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'."
For a moment the vacuous rodeo almost felt like a club.
The Peas ended with a one-two punch of No. 1 hits, "Boom, Boom, Pow," and "I Gotta Feeling," from new album, "The E.N.D.," sending the crowd home through a sea of limos parked outside Reliant Stadium. It was a scene unfamiliar to the usually reserved rodeo and more often seen following haughty nights of rock n' roll at the Toyota Center or the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
The Black Eyed Peas made this a memorable show because they took the disadvantages inherent in the rodeo set-up — difficult acoustics, long distances from the crowd and unfamiliar equipment — and made them positives.
For that reason, this will go down as one of the best rodeo performances ever.