NEW YORK CITY | Ten years have passed since Fergie unleashed her solo debut, a smash album that saw three singles soar to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but you wouldn’t know it by watching her Sunday night set at New York Pride’s annual Dance on the Pier. Prowling the Hudson River stage in thigh-high boots and a skintight black latex body suit, the Black Eyed Peas singer danced, sang and rapped like absolutely no time had passed since her chart-topping solo foray.
From Whitney Houston’s surprise appearance at Dance on the Pier in 1999 to Ariana Grande’s performance last year, the annual gay pride dance and pop divas have gone together like reading and shade. But while most Dance on the Pier divas are either rising stars or long-running legends, Fergie is a rarity: a pop star who willingly stepped out of the spotlight for years then hopped back in without missing a beat.
OK, Fergie’s return hasn’t gone entirely smooth. The 2014 single “L.A. Love (La La)” peaked at No. 27 on the Hot 100 (although, as a consolation prize, it was the theme song for Kourtney and Khloe Take the Hamptons), and nearly two years later, parent album Double Dutchess still doesn’t have a release date. But in terms of onstage prowess and style, Fergie has returned to the peak of her performance powers. Whether ferociously firing off the lyrics to “Fergalicious” or the Black Eyes Peas’ “Imma Be,” Fergie had the crowd in a frenzy — which was no small feat, considering most of those in attendance (predominantly shirtless muscle men) had come directly from the six-hour-plus gay pride march (which boasted Grand Marshal Jazz Jennings and a Hillary Clinton cameo).
Before Fergie hit the stage, there was surprisingly little movement from the weary, inebriated crowd; once she came out (following a Hillary Clinton video introduction, no less!), everyone threw down with a beautiful abandon, more than making up for the several hours of dance-free Dance on the Pier.
Speaking of the parade, the most moving moment was when a segment of the marchers laid down in the street in silent tribute to the 49 people killed in Orlando’s LGBT club Pulse. Fergie also marked the lives lost by putting the victims’ names and photos onscreen behind her as she sang 2003’s “Where Is the Love?” wearing a blazer with the word “love” written all over it. Pop stars speaking out after a tragedy can be a dicey proposition — some are blasted for insensitive wording, others are faulted for saying the right thing at the wrong place. But Fergie’s tribute was perfect: She didn’t make it about herself, she made it about the 49 people murdered simply for being themselves.