- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2005

It’s easily the most tired ploy used by rock-concert performers to generate crowd noise: yelling out the name of the city where they’re performing (memorably lampooned by Spinal Tap’s “Hello Cleveland!”).

Given that, you’d think some of today’s successful acts, whose album sales to teens guarantee an energetic audience, would resist the temptation to utter such claptrap.

Think again.

At Saturday night’s otherwise-enjoyable Gwen Stefani/Black Eyed Peas double bill at the Patriot Center, not only did both acts stoop to this silliness, they also resorted to novel elocutions in an attempt to draw a closer connection with the locals. Miss Stefani repeatedly (and exclusively) referred to Fairfax as if it were the place that everyone in the audience called home — and even declared the existence of something heretofore unknown to this region’s music fans: “Fairfax rhythm.” One of the Peas made a more diplomatic, albeit awkward, attempt to capture the crowd’s geographic sympathies, referring to them as “Baltimore, Virginia, D.C.”

However, the teenage girls who dominated the audience probably didn’t even notice the geographic faux pas. They came to see and hear the hits, and they got what they paid for.

The Peas offered stirring renditions of “My Lumps,” “Let’s Get Retarded,” and “Where is the Love?” While the band was high energy throughout its short set, its sole female member, Fergie (formerly of the Spice Girl-inspired Wild Orchid), appeared to be trying just a little too hard to prove her worth. Wearing a monkey hand puppet during “Retarded” was an overly-cute tribute to the band’s current album, “Monkey Business.”

Miss Stefani stuck to her new material, opting not to play anything from her rich No Doubt oeuvre. The songs were performed well, but they were often secondary to the tightly choreographed dancing (carried out by her team of Japanese harajuku girls and break-dancing men), the multiple costume changes and the video montages (many of them featuring arena-sized close-ups of — who else? — Miss Stefani). Even if you weren’t moved by the rap-influenced dance-pop spiced with rock — “Orange County Girl” was a particular standout — the emerging style icon performed them with gusto, sashaying around the three-level stage, often in high heels that accentuated her deceptively long legs (though she’s only 5 feet 6 inches) and well-toned physique. In between songs, she switched from purring sweet nothings to the crowd in her kittenish voice (“It’s true that I am the luckiest girl in the world”) to uttering vacuous statements that were often laced with profanities.

Predictably, the evening closed with her mega-hit, “Hollaback Girl,” purportedly the most downloaded song in the (admittedly brief) history of downloadable music. Miss Stefani appeared in a blue drum-major uniform, and brought about 50 teeny-boppers on stage to join in the singing and dancing. It was a nice touch, and one they’ll surely all remember — even if they showed no evidence of possessing that elusive “Fairfax rhythm.”

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