With a high-profile marriage, two kids, rock megastar status and a successful fashion line, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe Gwen Stefani when she sings “I’m just a girl.”
But the sold-out crowd for the May 27 No Doubt show at Fiddler’s Green bought it, so what’s the problem? On a pleasant night at the 16,000-plus-seat venue just south of Denver, where the estrogen flowed as freely as the energy, Stefani was the embodiment of female empowerment.
Judging by the many female tweens, teens, and more mature Gwen wannabes in attendance, this no longer is “a man’s world.” And now that Madonna has turned 50, it’s time for The Material Girl to pass on her royal crown as ruler of the magic kingdom. Gwen (below), who’ll turn 40 on Oct. 3, is the new Rock ‘N’ Roll Queen, but just one of three attractive and powerful women who took center stage this night.
Paramore’s Hayley Williams and The Sounds’ Maja Ivarsson were also in the house, fronting their respective bands during short but appealing sets. They paved the way for Stefani’s first appearance with No Doubt in Denver since a performance in the cozier Denver Coliseum on November 6, 2002, during their formidable Rock Steady tour.
The SoCal group, also including guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal and drummer Adrian Young, officially began this reunion tour May 16 in Las Vegas and will continue as one of the hottest acts of the summer until at least Aug. 11-12, when they are scheduled to perform in Honolulu.
No telling what will happen after that. Stefani’s story (and she’s sticking to it) is the group decided to come together in order to find time to write and record a new album. That might be a remarkable accomplishment even for this Wonder Woman, who is trying to do it all while raising her 3- and not-quite-1-year-old boys while hubby Gavin Rossdale plays elsewhere during a scaled-down and far less-ambitious tour.
After a five-year absence, during which Stefani started a family and kicked a solo career into high gear, the band returned looking and sounding better than ever. While Young’s appearance (bare chest, heavy makeup and a gelled Mohawk) remains full-on flaky, Stefani, Dumont (right) and Kanal were resplendent in white-hot attire matching a well-designed and wide-open-spaces stage that allowed for a lot of running, high-kicking, and group calisthenics. Near the end of the 90-minute show, before performing “Just A Girl,” Stefani even dropped down and gave the audience eight solid pushups, proving she’s still in amazing shape. No Doubt about that.
There was no fresh material – unless you consider a cover of Adam and the Ants’ “Stand and Deliver” new. But the familiar hits (“Spiderwebs,” “Simple Kind of Life,” “Hey Baby,” “Don’t Speak”) and occasional misses (“End It On This,” “Different People”) were bolstered by a powerful sound system, some creative and colorful videos (that sometimes served as a huge backdrop of nostalgia) and the group’s seemingly endless amount of energy. Not bad for a bunch of almost- or (in Dumont’s case) already-fortysomethings.
Stefani constantly stalked the stage, taking only two brief breaks for costume changes. The first came during the instrumental “Guns of Navarone,” which provided a showcase for percussionists/horn players/unofficial members Stephen Bradley and Gabe McNair, who strutted their stuff and lent some swanky ska and stylin’ funk to the event.
Yet, it was the still-smoking Stefani nearly everyone came to see. Her pretty blond hair bundled up in a series of complex braids, the fashion icon added some color to her all-white ensemble, taking off her classy jacket to reveal a neon green bra with straps that often were visible underneath her tank top tee. She first returned with a sequined black-and-white checkerboard outfit with black tights, then, for the three-song encore, a cute and glittery polo shirt with two-toned pants and sporty white boots.
Gwen (with Kanal, above left) and the guys, already hugely popular as Grammy-winning and multi-platinum selling artists before the hiatus, have apparently cleaned up their act.
Well, except for Young, who was good-naturedly called out by Stefani. “Adrian,” she asked early on, “Is this where you got arrested in the snow?” The tattletale went on to say the incident happened during a previous band visit to Colorado because the often scantily clothed drummer “was a little bit warm in the van, so he decided to go outside in the snow without any clothes.”
Young (right) provided comedy relief this night, too, parading around during the “Stand and Deliver” encore with a snare drum, tutu and world-champion Lakers T-shirt, the latter certainly worn to incite the hometown fans who didn’t care enough about their Nuggets to stay home and watch the crucial Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. Bradley countered by wearing a No. 7 Chauncey Billups Nuggets jersey.
For better or worse, Stefani no longer is the foul-mouthed beach blanket bingo babe with an attitude. Gentle Gwen speaks fondly of spending off days with her kids at the aquarium, introduces her parents in the audience, continually thanks the adoring audience and displays an enriched voice with passionate feeling. Maybe a renewed sense of being brings a different meaning to the lyrics of a song such as “Simple Kind of Life,” which she dedicated to her sons Kingston and Zuma.
The wild child of the Eighties might be long gone but this “Hey Baby” Mama hopefully is here to stay. Welcome back, Gwen, or as they liked to say back in the day, “You go girl.”
• For news, concert dates and more, go to No Doubt’s website or MySpace page.
• See a video of No Doubt performing “Spiderwebs during a recent appearance on NBC’s Today show.
• See more concert photos of No Doubt, Paramore and The Sounds from Fiddler’s Green here or check out the No Doubt slideshow below: