Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review: Black Eyed Peas (live broadcast from LA to a theater near you)

On Tuesday night, the Black Eyed Peas performed in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. At the same time, the show was being broadcast to movie theaters all over the country, including three in Omaha.

Showing live events in movie theaters is a growing phenomenon, though it's only just moved into the pop music arena. Broadcasts from New York of the Metropolitan Opera have become really popular among that crowd. Once they catch on, I imagine broadcasts of pop shows will become just as big.

It was my first experience with a show of this sort. That even includes one like the recent Dave Matthews Band/Ben Harper/Gogol Bordello concert film that was filmed last year and aired for a week in US theaters.

It was a decent experience, other than some technical difficulties brought on by the Midtown Crossing staff, which I'll get into later.

Anyway, here are my thoughts, divided up into a few categories...

In general
• It wasn't as exciting as actually being at the concert. It was more like being in the nosebleed seats and watching the video monitors that they always put up at arena shows. Except you had a damn good view of the video monitors.

• The sound was just OK. I thought the mix wasn't quite right because the vocals were way to loud and you could barely hear the instruments. Also, the sound was pretty quiet in general and didn't quite have that pop you'd find at a live show. In the end, though, you kind of got used to it.

• I have to admit that the price is right. Tickets to the theater were only $15. According to Pollstar, an average Black Eyed Peas concert ticket is $63.34. Especially considering the Peas ain't headed to Omaha, the theater ticket is a steal.

• Since it was at Midtown Crossing, you get a waiter that will bring you anything you need. And having a waiter bring me a pulled pork sandwich, fries and a Pepsi in the middle of a concert was pretty nice. I've never had that happen before.

The Good
• It was one hell of a spectacle. The Black Eyed Peas' production is one of the largest and most elaborate I've ever seen, rivaling the ridiculousness of Miley Cyrus (and that's saying something). This would have been pretty awesome to see in person, if not for the music then the entertainment spectacle in general.

• The costumes were pretty ridiculous, but they fit right in. Everything was rhinestones, leather and glitter and pretty over the top, but it fit. Characters and other people that various band members looked like after certain costume changes: the Matrix (Taboo), futuristic punk (, Marvel Comics' Wonder Man (Taboo), Michael Jackson from "Thriller" (, a jogger from the '80s (Fergie).

•'s DJ/mashup minute, where he took the stage dressed as a robot and DJed for awhile. It was actually really good and he dropped stuff from Estelle, House of Pain, Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Journey and the Eurhythmics.

• played a keytar during one song.

• I have to admit that the Black Eyed Peas do make pretty good pop music. It might not be your thing (it's not mine, to be honest), but it's well done for pop music.

• If you are a Black Eyed Peas fan, it was a good set list. They covered all of the hits, a few b-sides and even some Fergie solo material ("Fergalicious," "Glamorous" and "Big Girls Don't Cry")

• There was a special cameo for one Chris Bridges, known better as Ludacris, during "Glamorous." He's actually on the the album version of that song, so having him pop out and do his part in person was pretty cool. Also, Luda apparently opened the show.

• Speaking of cool cameos, Slash showed up, kicking up the coolness factor for the whole show a few notches.

The Bad
• Unfortunately, Fergie couldn't sing "Sweet Child O Mine" very well at all, even with Slash playing lead guitar right next to her.

• Kinda worse was when they stopped that song and Slash and Fergie jumped into some song they "wrote together" (... when I think "songwriting duo," I immediately think of Slash and Fergie...). It was bad, reminding me of a cross between the "Wayne's World"/Tia Carrere version of "Ballroom Blitz" and the song "Take My Breath Away" from "Top Gun." I kid you not, it was that awful.

• Only about 20 people showed up. Pretty sparse crowd. Though everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, barely anyone (but the kids there with their parents... about 1/3 of the crowd, I'd say) really got into it or even got out of their seats.

• Because of the technical problems I'll get into in a second, several of those 20 or so folks got up and left early because the show was running so late.

• The thing must have been on a time delay, because occasional F bombs were silenced. It was pretty stupid though, considering that for every F bomb they were able to bleep out, they missed about 3 others. The Black Eyed Peas use the F word relatively frequently, but whoever was operating the censor console wasn't quite quick enough on the draw.

The Ugly
I spoke of technical difficulties and these were pretty egregious. The show was to begin at 9:30 p.m. Those terrible between-movie ads went down then, but we didn't see anything on the screen until 9:44 when scenes from mid-concert appeared onscreen. Midtown Crossing staff could be heard talking in the projection room saying stuff like "How do I cue it up?" They didn't appear to know what was going on.

Eventually, they managed to rewind the live footage (I guess it's recorded on something similar to a DVR for your TV). They rewound it too far, though, and there was suddenly a 50-minute countdown on the screen. Ugh.

After another 10 minutes or more, they finally fast-forwarded through the countdown to get to the show, except they skipped an entire 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that was supposed to be shown in the theater. Oh well, because they were now more than 30 minutes behind.

Anyway, the "live" show finally started at the theater at 10:10 p.m., a full 40 minutes after it was supposed to start. That pushed the end time of the nearly two-hour show just past midnight.

I was, and still am, kinda annoyed with the whole thing. And it was clearly the fault of Midtown Crossing employees who had no idea how to work the equipment.

Eventually, I'm sure they'll get the kinks worked out while they do more shows of this sort. But it was pretty frustrating.

* * *

Here's something else that I was trying to figure out (bear with me)...

The show was billed to start at 9:30 p.m. as a live broadcast. Not pre-recorded or anything. Live.

Remember when I mentioned that we got some of the live footage onscreen at 9:44 p.m.? Well, I figured out that specific part of the concert was a full 44 minutes into the show.

So, was it actually supposed to start at 9??? All the advertising said 9:30 central, 10:30 eastern. Something was therefore apparently f'd with the start time, but that must have been the fault of the broadcasters, not the theater people.

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