7:56 p.m.: After puttering back and forth for 30 minutes, we're finally on a service elevator to get up to the press box. The elevator attendant says she just saw Fergie. She says she was "short and skinny." That's slightly different than how we would've described her. We probably would've gone with something like "Frumpy-faced."
8:28 p.m.: Despite being told that the elevators we were on would take us to the 8th floor (which is where the press box is), it didn't. Now we're waiting to get onto some separate elevators on the complete opposite side of the stadium. Here's a snippet of the conversation being held directly in front of us: "...That was a well thought-out plan. They didn't know who I was. It couldn't be traced back to me." This elevator ride is already more interesting than the last four.
8:35 p.m.: Fuck. Wrong elevators again. Kill me.
8:58 p.m.: Okay, seriously, Reliant Stadium Elevator Attendants, is it really so much to ask that you know which elevators can access the 8th floor and which ones can't? That seems like it'd be a pretty essential part of the job. 9:00 p.m.: In the press box. Finally.
9:01 p.m.: They just made an announcement. It was sponsored by M.D. Anderson. They called it the "M.D. Anderson Cancer Prevention Tip." It was to avoid tanning booths because they can increase the risk of you getting cancer. That's cool. But you should also avoid tanning beds because they increase you looking like an asshole.
9:02 p.m.: Oh snap. They're doing the mutton-busting event. That's the one where they put a helmet on a five- or six-year-old kid, sit him on a sheep, then tell him to hold on if he doesn't want to die. It's amazing.
9:04 p.m.: The announcer for the mutton thing is phenomenal. He's so over-the-top excited about announcing that it almost seems like he's making fun of the kids for being involved in this nonsense. He's like, "Here's Carly! HE LOVES PIZZA!" or "And here's David. He wants to be A KARATE INSTRUCTOR!" This is the best. One kid, a strapping young lad named Travis, actually hangs on for a good long bit. The crowd goes bonkers. Great stuff.
9:08 p.m.: They interview Travis after his domination of that bastard sheep. The lady asks him his strategy for the event. His response: "I just hold on tight." Dom Capers must've been his coach.
9:10 p.m.: The show's about to start. The announcer comes on to say that the lights are going to go out soon. We're not concerned. You don't really have to worry about the lights getting cut off until you get that pink envelope. Once you get that pink envelope, that's how you know Reliant is not dicking around anymore.
9:13 p.m.: The Black Eyed Peas have started. After some roboty initiations and sequencings they're off into "Let's Get Retarded." There's an old guy in a cowboy hat sitting one row up and several seats from us. He looks surprised that there was to be a concert after the rodeo. He probably muttered something like, "What in tarnations?" just now.
9:19 p.m.: Ha. There were some speakers on stage with the BEPs. Turns out, they were actually people made to look like speakers; sort of speaker/people Transformers, if you will. They just got up and did a dance routine. Cool.
9:23 p.m.: Fergie is dressed head to toe in this silvery, shimmery bodysuit. She looks like some kind of aluminum foiled space hooker or something.
9:27 p.m.: For whatever reason, Will.i.am just said to the audience, "This is our first time in Texas." We know this to be 100 percent false because we've seen them live before. Wonder how long it'll take him before he says something that contradicts that statement.
9:27:04 p.m.: Whoops. Not long. He followed that last line with, "I like Austin, but I love Houston." Several other people in the press box pick up on the misstep.
9:29 p.m.: Niiiice. They're doing that "Imma Be" song from The E.N.D. This actually opens up as a great hip-hop song.
9:29:15 p.m.: Fergie just said "muthafucking." That seems like something that should be reported on. We mean, we just reported that she looked like a space hooker. How is this any less vital?
9:29:45 p.m.: Dang. We forgot how bad the second half of "Imma Be" is. The first part was way hot, the second part was way not. (That's a jab at the BEPs' songwriting skills, in case you missed it.) That sucks. It's like they were writing it, then realized halfway in, "Hey, wait a second. This is actually kind of a good rap song, but T-Mobile will never pick this up for one of their commercials. Let's change it around a bit."
9:33 p.m.: "My Humps." Ack. We're still not convinced this song wasn't some kind of elaborate satirical joke.
9:42 p.m.: What started out as a somewhat corny section where Will.I.Am took to the turntables to "turn this stadium into a nightclub" actually rounded out to a pretty fun little diversion. He hits Nirvana's "Teen Spirit" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" along the way. The press box rocks when he hits Journey. Except for Grumpy Old Guy In A Cowboy Hat. Grumpy Old Guy In A Cowboy Hat does not approve of all of this tomfoolery.
9:44 p.m.: A very telling segment of the driving force behind most of the BEPs' music happens during the DJ set. Will is bouncing around from different genre to genre. He'll say something like, "Who's a fan of rock n' roll?!" then play "Smells Like Teen Spirit." When he gets to hip-hop - Who's a fan of real hip-hop?! - he opts to play "Jump Around" by House of Pain.
We would've bet dollars to cents he was going to plug in "Joints to Jam" right there, the lauded second single from their debut album and a genuinely great backpacker hip-hop song. "Jump Around" doesn't represent hip-hop, it represents a corporatized, more genteel, more sellable version of it. And that's what the Black Eyed Peas have become.
The first time we saw them was in Austin around 1997-98 at a real small underground-music-type venue. It was very intimate. (And we were very cool for having known about it.) They were insane. Afterwards, they even hung around and formed a breakdance circle with the people there. They were completely unbastardized. But now here they are, standing in front of 60,000-plus screaming kids, with maybe 50 yards of dirt between themselves and their fans.
It's cool that they've built themselves up and become this entity, but it's also kind of a little sad. It's like, imagine there were two nerdy girls in high school. They hung out together, came up together, spent years worth of lunches making fun of football players and cheerleaders and whatnot. Then one day, one of those two girls got a haircut and all the boys noticed.
Naturally, then the cheerleaders noticed. And they saw an opportunity. So they brought her in and made her one of them. And she became super popular because she was kind of weird; not Dungeons & Dragons weird, more "I wear thrift-store cardigans with most of my outfits" weird. And she wanted to stay friends with the other nerdy girl, but she just couldn't. It didn't work out. And she was sad about that.
But she liked being popular so much that it didn't matter. So she just kept right on, cheering it up, becoming more and more corporatized, until she had just about completely diluted what made her her. Then she started wearing really outrageous silver jackets and sunglasses that made her look like a bad guy from Mad Max hoping that nobody would notice. That's what happened with the Black Eyed Peas. Fuckin' Fergie, man.
9:51 p.m.: Will was making some conversation about the guitar player in his band. The guitar player is dressed in a fancy all black get-up. The guy sitting to our right says, "He looks like one of those S&M guys from the Internet." The best part though is that he says it real nonchalant, like it's normal to look at S&M porn on the Internet. [Ed. Note: It's not?]
He said it like he was saying "He looks like a cashier at Kroger." That would've been normal, something it would've been okay to assume other people were familiar with. You don't just automatically assume people at a concert look at S&M porn. Unless you're at a Homopolice show.
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9:53 p.m.: Will: "The first time we came to Houston we were an opening act on the Smokin' Grooves Tour." Whoops again.
10:06 p.m.: The BEPs have hit a nice little groove in their show. Reliant Stadium is a huge, huge place, way too big for a show that's so focused on the type of imagery the BEPs package their music in. There's just too much empty space between the stage and the crowd. Still, they do a fairly solid job of filling that gap. This show would've been bananas at a place like House of Blues, or even the Toyota Center.
10:10 p.m.: Finishing up "Boom, Boom, Pow." Will is making small talk about his outfit, poking fun at his "shiny, glittery cowboy boots." He's a pretty likeable guy.
10:17 p.m.: Will segues into "I Gotta Feeling" and the place is beaming. He and Taboo are off the stage and up onto a little platform right near the fans. Solid moment. And a fitting ending to the show. They all eventually ride off in the bed of a pickup truck after stretching the song into a six-minute handshake with the stadium. Not bad.