An impromptu moment during Tuesday night’s show at Expo 2020 Dubai came towards the end when the rapper asked the backing band to stop the intro to the closing anthem I Gotta Feeling.
“I want to try something different,” he said, before imploring the crowd to join him in creating a regionally relevant version of their biggest hit.
"We love all nationalities and religions around the world,” he said under the dome of Expo 2020's majestic Al Wasl Plaza.
“So on this song, in this country, right now, when I say 'I got a feeling', you say 'inshallah'. It will be perfect.”
The crowd obliged and the result was a lovely ending to what was a euphoric and inclusive show.
Nearly 30 years on, Black Eyed Peas remain the band for big occasions.
With more than 80 million in album sales and a string of chart-topping hits, the key to the group’s appeal has always been the ability to transcend language and culture.
Hence, they became the go-to group for global events such as the 2011 NFL Super Bowl in the US, the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa and the 2019 Asian Games in the Philippines.
If you watch these performances online, you will find the quartet adding local elements to each show, whether by infusing their tracks with material from artists from that city or lacing their interactions with the local dialect.
When it came to their Expo show, the group didn’t need to try too hard to appeal locally.
Performing in the round stage of Al Wasl Dome, all members showcased their respective affinity with the UAE.
Will.i.am peppered his crowd chatter with references to the city’s ambition and raised the energy with his incessant shouts of "yallah".
Filipino members apl.de.ap and J Rey Soul acknowledged a large contingent from their homeland, with the former even dropping a freestyle rap in Tagalog.
From the hip-hop and soul fusion of Let’s Get It Started and robotic dance rhythms of Boom Boom Pow to the bevy of Spanish tracks, including standouts Ritmo (Bad Boys for Life) and Mamacita, the group kept it fun and loose while marauding around the circular stage to ensure everyone was involved in the action.
Will.i.am said the Black Eyed Peas performances are often inspired by the present moment.
On that score, the group crafted a hit-laden show befitting the universality of Expo 2020 Dubai.