Kicking off their first tour since 2006, the Black Eyed Peas brought a full bag of tricks to Philips Arena in Atlanta last night. There were smoke machines, lasers, oddly clad dancers, a flying motorcycle, confetti canons and many, many costume changes. Overall, the vibe was, to quote their recent hit, “Boom Boom Pow,” “so 3008” — kind of Buck Rogers meets Vivienne Westwood — with the Peas running through more than 20 songs in a tightly choreographed, fast-paced two-hour set.
The show opened with a large, green robotic face projected onto a video screen behind the center of the stage, as plumes of smoke swirled from the floor. Echoing the band’s recent Grammy-winning album, a mechanical voice intoned, “Welcome to The E.N.D.” Soon after, Will.i.am, Fergie, Taboo and Apl.de.ap rose from beneath the stage, enveloped in green laser light, and launched into “Let’s Get It Started.” Will, dressed in what looked like a bedazzled, silver marching band jacket and a black “Phantom of the Opera”-style face mask, stalked down a long runway that extended into the audience, followed by Fergie, who was wearing a silver body suit and matching boots. Images of flames and computer circuitry alternated on the massive, two-story stage set behind them, with a band safely installed — which is to say, barely visible — on the set’s upper level.
For “Rock That Body,” the quartet was joined onstage by six dancers dressed as stereo speakers. Their mechanized routine at the end of the song offered the first chance for a wardrobe change. The disco-inflected “Meet Me Halfway” followed, featuring Will jamming on key-tar and Fergie at stage center, her hair blown back by wind machines. Will moved briefly to a grand piano to offer a verse and chorus of “Alive,” then shot up off his bench for “Don’t Phunk With My Heart.”
An impressive Will.i.am freestyle that included multiple mentions of 1990s-era Atlanta Falcons running back (and apparent friend-of-Will’s) Jamal Anderson, another wardrobe change and more hits (“Imma Be,” “My Humps”) preceded brief solo sets from each of the Peas, the most memorable moments of which were Taboo’s ride through the arena on a motorcycle suspended from cables, and Will’s DJ set, which mixed snippets of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” and “Thriller,” with Estelle’s “American Boy,” House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Otherside,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire” and Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” to crowd-pleasing effect.
The tail end of the set included an energetic take on the surf guitar-led “Pump It,” and an earnest thank you to the audience from Will for the Peas’ continued success in the face of an industry that has been completely transformed since the band began touring 11 years ago. Fergie, now dressed in a black, skin-tight leotard with pointy shoulder blades and an armor plate over her crotch, led the crowd in a sing-along of the group’s breakthrough hit, “Where Is the Love?” to close out the main set. “Boom Boom Pow” and their current hit, “I Gotta Feeling,” turned up in the encore. Fergie briefly wove the chorus of U2’s “With or Without You” into the latter tune, which was capped when confetti canons rained tiny strips of colorful paper on audience members as they made their way to the exits.