Their metallic costumes extended the cybernetic metaphor, which culminated mid-set when lead Pea will.i.am donned a silvery face plate and flashing bodysuit, his voice altered to sound like something out of Battlestar Galactica.
Robotic or not, there's no disputing the Peas' track record. They scored three No. 1 singles last year alone, holding the top spot for a solid six months with The E.N.D.'s "I Gotta Feeling" and "Boom Boom Pow," which also made up the concert's encore.
Although their album sales have fallen with the music industry's fortunes - after touting combined sales of 22 million for their previous albums Elephunk (2003) and Monkey Business (2005), will.i.am pointedly switched criteria in calling 2009 their "most successful year yet" - they rarely miss an opportunity to advance themselves by other means.
At the Wachovia show, fans with a particular brand of cell phone were invited to submit messages for will.i.am to incorporate into a freestyle rap, which produced such lyrical gems as "Shout-out to Stacey" and "Happy birthday anyone who's having a birthday."
Since the Peas recruited Fergie (nee Stacy Ferguson) in 2002, their songs have focused almost exclusively on partying and sex, with a simplicity that often crosses into crudeness. But in concert, they favored radio edits over album versions, bleeping out potentially offensive lyrics themselves, and even mimicking the sound of backwards masking. Even the excision of anatomical references (including the decidedly mild breasts) couldn't clean up "My Humps," but then the teenage girls bumping and grinding to the song wouldn't have wanted it scrubbed totally clean. Fans who knew the words could fill in the blanks, while the parents of younger children could rest at least mildly assured. The Black Eyed Peas' software is user-friendly, no matter who the user might be.