On a beautiful summer evening in the heart of the nation's capital city, Ottawa, the night was made even hotter by two rap/hip-hop acts that were performing on the opening weekend of the 10 day long Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest. Starting at 7:30 on the Main Stage rapper Talib Kweli took the stage to warm the crowd up for the headliner, The Black Eyed Peas. Kweli was born in Brooklyn, New York and has been rapping since the mid-90s with artists such as Mos Def, Mary J. Blige, and Faith Evans. He has released four albums during his career, with the most recent in 2004 called "The Beautiful Struggle" which was produced by Kanye West among others. He is now touring North America as the opening act for The Black Eyed Peas. His music includes many samples from well-known "old school" tracks. During his 50 minute set he performed many of his songs, including: Never Been in Love (the latest single), Just to Get By, The Beautiful Struggle, I Try, and Ghetto Show. Kweli is a very accessible artist who like to include the audience in his shows, which he demonstrated by talking to the audience often and inviting some talented members of the audience up onto the stage to break dance during one of his numbers. They were obviously thrilled by this opportunity to show their stuff. His set was the perfect warm up for the headliners.
The Black Eyed Peas have blown up ever since the 2003 release of Elephunk which sold 7.5 million copies worldwide and garnered them a Grammy Award. Their latest release is called Monkey Business and is selling just as well. The Black Eyed Peas are in the middle of the North American leg of their world tour and they do not seem to be at all road weary. They are also fresh off their performance in Philadelphia at the Live8 concert, which was a music event in support of pressuring the leaders of the Big 8 countries to do something about ending world poverty. It came really came through during this show that The Black Eyed Peas are not all about being a fluffy hip-hop group; they are very concerned about getting positive messages into their songs and are socially conscious. Wil.I.Am mentioned what had just happened in London and that we had to do something to make this world a better and safer place for everyone.
After a delay (the show was supposed to start at 8:45), The Black Eyes Peas came onto the Main Stage at 9:30. They started off the evening in their typical high energy style with their hit "Hey Mama" and the energy level never really came down for their entire 95 minute set. Main front man Wil.I.Am and Fergie (female singer) are definitely the focal points of this quartet, but the other two members, Taboo and apl.de.ap, are no slouches either. They are all very high energy on stage and never stop moving about. The crowd of 50,000 really loved and fed off of this; they were quite loud with their appreciation for the group! The Black Eyed Peas were constantly interacting with the crowd; they are definitely a group whose focal point are their fans. More proof, if you need it, that this band is hot and loved by their fans was that every night at the Bluesfest there is a silent auction (to help fund a after school music program in Ottawa schools) held to sit in two chairs that are placed on the stage during that evening's headliner show. Two young girls paid over $3,000 to sit on the two chairs during The Black Eyed Peas show, which was a festival record. What is surprising to someone who has never caught their live act is how good vocally they all sound. They all sound almost exactly the same as they do on their cds; it must be pointed out that Fergie does have a really good voice and she is not just the token cute girl in the group. It is hard to categorize this band as a hip-hop band because their music does not fit into any one style or genre. Their music is like they are throwing a big party and so are their shows. It seemed like even Mother Nature is a fan of The Black Eyed Peas because the rain which had been threatening all day held off until just after the group left the stage.
Setlist: 1) Hey Mama
2) Don't Lie
3) Dum Diddly
4) Joints Jam
5) Shut Up
6) Phenomenon (L.L Cool J cover)
7) Like That (with Talib Kweli)
8) Labor Day (It's a Holiday)
9) Pump It (breakdancing by the band)
10) Where Is The Love
Encore: 11) Milkshake (Kelis cover)/Drop It Like It's Hot (Snoop Dog cover)
12) My Style
13) Don't Phunk With My Heart
14) Let's Get It Started