December 8, 2013 9:03 pm

Will.i.am, O2 Arena, London – review

The Black Eyed Peas rapper’s show featured Cheryl Cole, an iPad and some very big heads
Will.i.am performing at the O2 Arena, Londo©LNP

Will.i.am performing at the O2 Arena, London

The people of Britain have clasped will.i.am to their collective bosom, buying 9.4m copies of his singles and elevating him to one of the most prestigious judicial seats in the kingdom, judge on television talent show The Voice.

Is the love reciprocated? When the Californian announced from the stage of the O2 Arena that the UK “isn’t like a second home” to him, the venue froze in suspense. Where on the will.i.am property portfolio do we Brits rank? Perish the thought we might be the Californian’s third or fourth home. “It’s more like – my first home!” he declared. Hooray!

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He never thought he’d see the day he sold out the O2, he told us. “Not that I doubted myself or anything,” he hurriedly added. Two huge models of human heads flanked him, each with a DJ/musician stationed on top. During songs will.i.am’s features were projected on to these colossi, while the man himself cavorted in front of them. An even larger head was wheeled on with him perched in its cranium when it was his turn to deejay. It was not the stage set of one prone to self-doubt.

The show was in support of the Black Eyed Peas rapper’s latest solo album, #willpower . Big-name collaborators such as Justin Bieber and Britney Spears did their cameos on screen, in footage taken from the songs’ videos. Real-life guests included will.i.am’s Voice protégée Leah McFall and ex-Girl Aloud Cheryl Cole, the latter sifting through the wreckage of her will.i.am-assisted solo career with a spectacularly feeble performance on “Heart Breaker”.

Will.i.am’s rapping was better, but not by much. “She put boobies in my face, now I’m seeing doubles,” he rapped at one point, like Benny Hill in the age of the twerk. Inane catchphrases rang out. “Let’s go crazy!” “Pump it out!” The mood, whipped up by gonzoid EDM beats, was hyper.

The first part of the gig barrelled by at delirious pace. Will.i.am, rapping through a headset microphone, semaphored his arms like an insane traffic policeman. Loud, dumb synth hooks blasted out. People danced with wild abandon. US hip-hop’s favourite theme of hanging out in the club ogling women became the soundtrack to a raucous stag or hen party. No wonder Britain *hearts* will.i.am – that’s our idea of fun.

But the show was just too daft and poorly structured to sustain anything other than a goldfish’s attention. It tailed off into a section of songs that will.i.am played on an iPad – a less remarkable feat of technical skill than he seemed to imagine, and one with the unhappy consequence of making him look as if he was playing Fruit Ninja or checking Facebook. I’m afraid this particular transatlantic love affair gets a #unlike from me.


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