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The funky Black Eyed Peas share their energetic pop sugar

TAMPA

Despite being the nutritional equivalent of a sack of Ring Dings, the club-jumpin', hump-bumpin' Black Eyed Peas are actually healthy for you. And no, that's not my overworked Fergie lust talking. The L.A.-born quartet offers sugar-spun escapism, songs that serve the id, the caboose, no thinking required.

If you use your brain, the deal is off.

Strutting into an absolutely packed St. Pete Times Forum on Wednesday, Will.i.am, Apl.de.ap, Taboo and Fergie carried the title of best-selling pop band of the past year — a span, it should be noted, when music sales continued to tank. But the Peas' latest album, 2009's The E.N.D., sold huge anyway, an iTunes bully buoyed by big fat dance hits that are all about carpe diem.

Or at least par-tay diem.

After opening sets by "electro-hop" pranksters LMFAO and likably wrong rapper Ludacris, the Peas rose from the depths of a strobing two-tiered stage. Looking like Army-issue mirror balls, they were dressed not unlike Sgt. Pepper's from the Year 3000. Will.i.am was so unrecognizable behind a goofy mask, it could have been Larry.i.am under that getup.

Backed by a full live band (and a whole lot of samples and digital trickery), BEP opened with Let's Get It Started. And with that, the near-capacity crowd commenced 100-plus minutes of singing, dancing, grooving — a young-and-old audience of dads and their daughters, and sugardaddies and their, um, daughters.

"We came here for one reason only," Will hollered, "and that's to get craaazzzy!" At a BEP concert, that's as deep as you get.

Again: The show was silly, but satisfying. You can tell the Peas dig working with each other; even though this long tour is coming to an end, the four displayed a flirty chemistry harmonizing on Meet Me Halfway, Don't Phunk With My Heart and My Humps, that bawdy stripper classic for which Fergie went low and slow, if you know what I mean.

Ap and Taboo are hype men, giving off 'tude and cool. But there's no mistaking who runs this show. Will and Fergie both had extended solo sets. With a voice that soars higher, louder live, Fergie legged out chart-toppers Fergalicious and Glamorous. In his niftiest move, Will did a blazing freestyle rap using material from real-time fan texts scrolling up giant screens.

Will is a showoff, so as well as playing all manner of instruments, and being lifted and lowered on ropes and lifts, he spun a lengthy (a little too lengthy) DJ set that merged Michael Jackson, the Kings of Leon and Guns N' Roses.

Finally, his mates came back, unleashing the absolutely insane Pump It based on a Dick Dale surf riff. After Where Is the Love? the Peas encored with their biggest hits, Boom Boom Pow and I Gotta Feeling. The entire joint shimmied, a dirty aerobics session.

Like I said: The Peas are good for you.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life column runs every Sunday in Floridian.

The funky Black Eyed Peas share their energetic pop sugar 02/10/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2010 10:01am]

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