Halfway through the Black Eyed Peas' live show, rapper Taboo hops on a neon-glowing motorcycle and, using suspension wires, rides it out above the crowd — all while singing "Rockin' to the Beat."
"You never expect a flying motorcycle to hover over your head during the show," he said. "It takes the show to a different level."
Inspired by the '80s movie "Tron," the motorcycle is one of the more eyebrow-raising moments in a concert that's loaded with dizzying lights, props and special effects. The Black Eyed Peas have become one of the biggest groups in the country, and their tour, which comes to the 1st Mariner Arena Tuesday, is just as eye-popping as one might expect.
The Peas' latest album, "The E.N.D.," was one of last year's best-selling efforts, and singles such as "Boom Boom Pow," "I Gotta Feeling" and "Meet Me Halfway" spent weeks at the top of the charts. For months, the irresistible beat of "Boom Boom Pow" and sharp, staccato keyboards in "I Gotta Feeling" dominated pop radio.
Eager to capitalize on their success, the Peas inked deals with a boatload of sponsors: Apple, Blackberry, Bacardi, Nokia, Target, Best Buy … the list goes on. Their music has been in commercials and movie soundtracks as well. Asked if there were any sponsorship deals the Peas would refuse, Taboo couldn't come up with an example.
"I don't even know what type of sponsorship would turn us off," he said. "We select what we want to go with."
The sponsorships, media saturation and sheer number of albums sold have, understandably, earned the four Peas their share of critics — both in the press and the general public. The Peas have been called "overexposed," "vapid" and "pandering." None of it bothers the Peas, Taboo said. They're immune to critics like Perez Hilton, he said.
"We don't get too caught up in the negative flack," he said. "It's like, 'OK, well, we're selling out arenas around the world. Do I care what a writer says, or do I care about what 16,000 people a night think?"
Earlier this year, the Peas performed at the World Cup, an event that was televised for an estimated two billion viewers, Taboo said. It was like playing the Super Bowl and NBA finals all rolled into one.
"That was a monumental moment in our career," he said. "We were like, 'Wow, this is humongous for us.' "
Scan the supermarket tabloid rack or Internet gossip sites and you're bound to see a story about singer Fergie's personal life. She's pregnant. She's leaving the band. Or both. Producer/rapper Will.i.am is also leaving the band, if you believe the rumor mill. None of it's true, Taboo said.
"Every time we look in the magazines, Fergie's pregnant or Fergie's leaving the group," he said. "Fergie's been pregnant for eight years!"
Fergie is the group's only singer, in the traditional sense. The other three Peas — Taboo, Will.i.am and Apl.de.ap — are rappers. Aside from producing and rapping in the Peas, Will.i.am has worked with a bevy of pop artists, from Usher to Michael Jackson. Taboo, whose real name is Jaime Luis Gomez, isn't as prominent as Fergie or Will.i.am, but doesn't seem to mind. He's happy with his role in the group, he said, and doesn't want to upstage any of the other members.
"I've never been a fame seeker," he said. "We're the Los Angeles Lakers of the '80s. You have Magic Johnson and you have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I'm the James Worthy of the group. He wasn't the big star, but every time James Worthy got the ball, he scored points."
The Peas' current tour, which started this past February, will likely continue until next February or March, Taboo said. When not performing, they're dropping into studios and hashing out ideas for the next album. But the follow-up to "The E.N.D." is still a long way off. No dates have been set and no titles have been picked, he said. He's focusing on the next tour stop, happy that his wife and kids could join him on the road.
"I'm grateful for that," he said. "That's how I balance my sanity and my job."
If you go
The Black Eyed Peas perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at 1st Mariner Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St. Tickets are $39.50-$81.50. Call 410-547-7328 or go to ticketmaster.com.
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