Music Review: No Doubt at Nissan Pavilion
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The band had seasoned its bright FM pop with just enough reggae to make it seem mildly exotic. The move won the band the world, then it retreated at the height of its fame. The comeback roadshow dispensed with the usual, dreary half-dozen new songs, instead having its gorgeous blond singer -- now a fully formed solo star -- cut straight to the old favorites.
But the Police reunion was two years ago. Those guys are old. And Sting, frankly, had looked bored up there.
No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, meanwhile, is many things: SoCal punk grrrl turned club diva. Fashionista. Mother of two; still the owner of a superheroic, oft-exposed six-pack. Actress. (Well, she was in "The Aviator," anyway.) But bored? Didn't look like it at Nissan Pavilion Sunday night. Boring? Not. A. Chance.
"Get your hands up in the air!" she commanded, sounding more like the leader of a bank-heist crew than a 39-year-old pop star reconnecting with some old friends.
We hear and obey, all 21,500 of us.
The Orange County hitmakers are all in their late 30s now -- except for guitarist Tom Dumont, at 41 -- but the summer's biggest comeback tour has youth very much on its mind. The band showed up for its aerobic 95-minute set sporting white-and-black couture seemingly modeled after the duds worn by the adolescent thugs in "A Clockwork Orange."
Kicking off with the ska-punk confection "Spiderwebs," the first dozen songs purred along, each accompanied by a video. Some, like the '60s spy parody for "Ex-Girlfriend," or the nostalgic montage of home movies from the band's salad days that accompanied "Running," were more diverting than the flesh-and-blood performances happening in front of them.
So it was a almost a relief when the big telly finally went dark, allowing the band to rock the megahits "Don't Speak" and "Just a Girl" minus the virtual doppelgangers.
Mind you, Stefani and company are not easily upstaged. The gig was as free of tedium as it was of spontaneity; calculated, but a good entertainment value. Touring for the first time in half a decade, and absent a new album to push, No Doubt sweetened the deal by offering a free download of its complete discography with tickets costing $42.50 or above.
The show didn't go anywhere near that deep: Fourteen of the 19 songs performed are on the band's "Singles 1992-2003" compilation. But one, a cover of Adam and the Ants' "Stand and Deliver," was exclusive to the download. Openers Paramore and the Sounds joined the headliners to bang it out during the encore, the night's sloppiest performance and one of its best.
There were a few other serendipitous moments. When one lucky comer caught Stefani's eye with an arrow-shaped sign reading simply "Hug," she said, "Come and get it!" Embracing him as promised, she then put her mike down to take a snapshot of the two of them with the audience in the background. It was a sweet, if theatrical gesture, the pop diva allowing a charming mortal to touch the hem of her garment. A night to remember for him. And at least for a little while, for us, too.