The members of No Doubt kicked off hometown promotion of their long-awaited new album last week with a series of appearances and events, all capped on Friday with a return engagement at the sold-out Universal Amphitheater.
The exciting, hits-filled concert showcased glamorous singer Gwen Stefani’s increasingly confident and commanding stage presence, as well as the band members’ progressing move from ska-party antics toward a more impressive pop-oriented sound.
The quartet (plus two additional members on keys and horns) took to the stage to the “Godfather” theme, then opened the show appropriately enough with “New,” the Orange County-bred band’s contrib to last year’s “Go” soundtrack, setting the evening’s celebratory tone.
“I can’t believe I’ve had this chance now, don’t let it go away,” sang the pink-haired Stefani while the packed house — featuring numerous pink-tressed young Gwen-abies — shouted its approval.
Evening was split between songs from No Doubt’s intimately themed fourth studio album, the just-released “Return of Saturn” (Trauma/Interscope), and the most popular tracks from band’s mega-selling 1995 entry “Tragic Kingdom.”
On new songs like “Bathwater,” recent single “Ex-Girlfriend” and the subtle-skanking “Marry Me” Stefani laid bare her most personal concerns, all wrapped by the band’s infectious and upbeat style, while older tunes like “Different People” and “Sunday Morning” took a more casual, though no less enjoyable, approach to life’s everyday concerns.
The climax of the evening came towards the end of the regular set when the group played one of its favorite covers, “Total Hate” by reggae-punk masters Bad Brains. Friday’s furious rendition of the song — which ND originally recorded with the late Sublime singer Bradley Nowell —induced no less than five cartwheels by Stefani, who was clearly caught up in the moment.
Stefani invited a half-dozen girls from the audience with pink hair onstage to dance with her for the set-ending “Excuse Me Mr.,” while members of opening acts Fishbone and Suicide Machines came back out to collaborate on the finale of “Spiderwebs.”
No Doubt returns to the Southland for a show Aug. 5 at Irvine Meadows Amphitheater with support acts Lit and Black Eyed Peas.