"Let's give it up for Chase bank, people! They're so rich we love em'!" Z100's morning DJ Elvis Duran had been stalling for 15 minutes, keeping 60,000 restless people in Central Park from being entertained by the Black Eyed Peas to heap praise on the corporate partners who made it all happen. Earlier, messages flashed on the giant jumbotron screens alerting us that "55% of babies born in NYC are born into poverty." Now, a lithe, semi-nude blonde was cruising in her private jet, or lolling around in a pool with her lover in their glass-bound ziggurat in the sky. "Everybody go out and buy some Calvin Klein!" Duran crowed.
None of the shilling was for naught: The Robin Hood Foundation encouraged attendees (54K of whom had gotten in for free) to donate $10 via text throughout the show, adding to the thousands donated by the VIPs (NBC President Jeff Zucker briefly gawked at the size of the crowd before ducking backstage). Not to mention time donated by the band itself to put on the show and raise awareness for a truly worthy cause: fighting poverty in New York City.
But given the belt-tightening, jobless era we live in, the Black Eyed Peas' show feels like a gilded relic of the early 2000s. Smoke cannons bellowed as speaker-clad dancers pranced in front of a riot of seizure-inducing visual effects. Will.i.am's voice was rendered inscrutable thanks to Auto-Tune, making Fergie sound pretty damn good when she wanted to.
While the middle school set pushed their way to the front (favorite lyric: "She come around for a toast to the best time / We LOL back and forth on the text line") the crowd was largely diverse, with families spread out on blankets and couples making out with glowsticks wrapped around their necks. "Did you see Kim Kardashian?" Our photographer had spotted her midway through the first song as her handlers escorted her backstage. "She was tiny!" We had been too busy gazing at the skyline behind us, marveling at the juxtaposition of the blinking steel above the trees.