Nobody leads an amphitheater through a series of aerobic dance moves better than No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani. Before she could dictate any instructions during the band’s opening jazzy number, “Spiderwebs,” at the Gibson Amphitheater Wednesday, the crowd was already jumping in place and uniformly swaying arms. Clearly, these fans were ready after waiting five years for No Doubt’s reunion.Beat for beat, and note for note, No Doubt turned in a 90-minute set of its ska-reggae hits that could appease any purist fan. The only departure for the night was a wonderfully soft rendition of its headbanger “Excuse Me Mister.” Wednesday marked the band’s first of three dates at the Gibson before moving south to Irvine for four nights. With her doe-eyed looks and flamingo struts, Stefani easily becomes the center of attention. But Wednesday’s show served as a reminder of each band member’s strength, with Tom Dumont’s fiery lead strumming on “New,” Tony Kanal’s bouncy bass in “Bathwater” and Adrian Young’s jungle drums on the night’s finale, “Sunday Morning.” Musically, Stefani’s distinguishing characteristic remains the girlie tone that accentuates her upper alto register, so evident in the heartache standard “Don’t Speak.” That song was one of the few times during the show when she wasn’t kicking her legs up. The concert’s sleek, futuristic production design was punctuated by a raised spider-legged stage where percussionist Young presided, flanked by the brass and keyboards of Gabe McNair and Stephen Bradley. The set gave the band room to dance around. A backdrop screen lent a sentimental feel to the night, with footage of the band’s early days unspooling during the perf of “Running.” At other times, it featured video showing the band acting out various 1960s and ’70s pics (i.e. “A Clockwork Orange”) in costume. But the visuals were whipped cream next to the band’s return to form. No Doubt also impressed with a vivacious cover of Adam Ant’s “Stand and Deliver” alongside opening act the Sounds. If there was any drawback to Wednesday’s concert, it was the lack of new material. In light of reports that No Doubt is writing while on the road, the vibrant performance begs the question: What’s next?
Gibson Amphitheater; 6,251 capacity; $90 top
Presented by Live Nation.
Band: Gwen Stefani, Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal, Adrian Young, Stephen Bradley, Gabriel McNair. Reviewed July 22, 2009. Also appearing: the Sounds, Paramore.