Photo courtesy of Max Genereaux and Leslie Beattie
I asked my friend Leslie Beattie, lead singer for Thee Sgt. Major III (Kurt Bloch’s latest songwriting outlet), to attend Fergie’s show at the Puyallup Fair with me last Tuesday because I love her solo debut The Duchess (produced by Black Eyed Peas genius Will.I.Am). I expected to be singing, dancing, and having a great time. I was ready to be wowed by Fergie and her backup dancers/singers. I repeat, I love The Duchess, and have been listening to it nonstop in my car for the last six months. Yes, I have a teenage girl living inside me. I also loved No Doubt front woman Gwen Stefani’s solo debut. Again, there is a bubblegum-pop-loving teenage girl living inside my 41-year-old rock-club-owning overweight ass. Why did I think the good-looking, prepackaged, L.A.-bred, L.A.-produced pop princess could deliver live without the studio tricks we all know are standard in pop music? Because, once again, there is a teenage girl living inside me. But that teenage girl may have been killed last night. It was as though Fergie had eaten an entire bowl of Black Eyed Peas and took a gigantic, uninspired, sit-on-the-toilet-till-your-legs-fall-asleep greasy (pronounced greeeezzzzy) dump all over the stage.“Heroin?” was the one-word answer from Presidents of the United States of America guitarist Andrew McKeag when asked what he thought was the root cause of Fergie’s lackluster performance. There with his wife and young children, McKeag followed up that assessment with a question: “Hello, is this 1-800-ROCKSHOW? I’d like one to go, please.” Fair enough request, really; after all, Fergie did assure the crowd that they were gonna “rock” with her from the outset. And as packs of disappointed concertgoers clamored toward the exit (and toward Leslie, who was nearby imploring the beer tent to remain open), they must have wondered the same: Where was the “rock?” And more important, what the hell was going on with Fergie? Meanwhile, I and an audience of approximately 3000 people, including young girls with families in tow and groups of 20-, 30-, and 40-year-old women out for the night sans boyfriends and husbands, stayed put to see what would happen next. While most of the crowd was loving it, I was cracking up and texting Andrew. “Has she ever used a mike before, and why haven’t you given her backup band some guitar lessons?”
She sounded loaded. Appearing at the top of an elevated staircase next to the drum riser which completely covered her signature “F” logo, Fergie ambled sluggishly toward the audience wearing a bland shorts-vest-and-T-shirt ensemble, then proceeded to stand still for the first three MTV hit numbers: “Here I Come,” “London Bridge,” and my personal favorite, “Clumsy.” The vocal gymnastics her fans are so used to hearing pitch-perfect were not present here. Instead we were all treated to extremely lazy, sometimes inaudible, and mostly slurred renditions of our favorite Fergie tunes, as well as a seemingly endless parade of cover “medleys” (“Live and Let Die,” “Black Dog,” “Santeria,” “Start Me Up,” “Barracuda”). Who the fuck needs to hear “Live and Let Die” or “Start Me Up” again anyway, especially sung by someone who probably missed it the first time? It all had a very disturbing Celine Dion-on-lithium vibe. Once, at the beginning of the show, Fergie actually looked at the mike as though it were the first time she’d ever clapped eyes on the thing, and only then began to sing into it instead of around it, but it only proved to make her vocal errors more pronounced. Leslie and I agreed that despite the overarching efforts of her backup dancers to make the show more dynamic, the routines seemed unfocused, and that “big show” feel that generally characterizes this type of bloated, large-venue entertainment was nowhere to be found. Like Fergie, the backup dancers just looked boring. I mean, there is such a thing as goin' for the “street” vibe, I get it, but come on. We don’t actually want you to look as though you'd just walked off the damn street. “Store-bought” ain’t good enough for these ticket prices. The show left us as cold as a coked-up lover in the sack. The stage show was so bad it was as if we were all at a junior-high talent show, or better yet a lip-synch contest. Fergie actually moved far worse and far less to “Start Me Up” than a 60-year-old Mick Jagger. Ouch!
God! This sucked. As she wiped out her signature Black Eyed Peas mega-hit “Humps, My Lovely Lady Humps” as part of a Black Eyed Peas medley, I began to wonder whether or not she even knew her own songs. She dropped so many notes onstage, it made sense that she was having trouble moving around them. Slowly, Snuffleupagus-like, she walked from side to side, going down on her knees and crawling around as though it were entertaining. And to the throngs of musically uneducated fans who screeched “I love you, Fergie!” at her every move, I guess it was. Introducing her meth-addiction retrospective, “Voodoo Doll,” by saying ”this song is about a time in my life that I don’t wish upon anybody,” her dancers came onstage wearing the most ridiculous, unprofessionally made, meant-to-be-scary face masks I’ve ever seen. Kathy Griffin’s hair and makeup offer more production value and planning than Fergie and her entire entourage’s efforts in every aspect. My uber-gay buddy Brandon suggested that maybe, like Kathy, Fergie needs to trade in her uber-hot fiance Josh Duhamel for some good old-fashioned gays with a sense of style and theatrics.
Sad. So sad. I’ve gotta stop here. I can’t continue to relive this horrific event. It was hilarious at the time, but as I relive it it’s making me sick to my stomach. The teenage girl/former booking agent/rock-club owner who are all a part of me are all disappointed to an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. Fergie sucked, band sucked, dancers sucked, crowd sucked. On a positive note, the Fair, the games, the rides, the weather, the beautiful sunset, and the full moon over the stage and the company were great. Thanks, Leslie, I owe you one. Let’s go check out some good local from-the-streets music at one of our city's many fine venues. Here’s to the streets where Fergie obviously does not come from.
Additional reporting by Leslie Beattie