No Doubt -- Concert Review
"Hella Good." That's the title of the futuristic funk workout No Doubt performed early in its 90-minute-plus set Wednesday at the Gibson Amphitheatre, but it also effectively summed up the quartet's performance.
Eclipsed by frontwoman Gwen Stefani's charisma during its heyday and all but forgotten while the blond pop tart went on a platinum solo run is the fact that No Doubt is a damned good band. That instrumental prowess -- and Stefani's always magnetic presence -- was on full display as the Anaheim-spawned group returned to Southern California to a hero's welcome.
Like their own heroes the Police, No Doubt never actually broke up. It just went on an extended hiatus to allow its star some time to test the solo waters -- and give birth to two children -- while the boys in the band cooled their jets, producing, working sessions and playing golf. Stefani always insisted that the band would regroup once she got her solo stint out of her system. True to her word, No Doubt is back with its first tour in five years but no new material, save for a cover of Adam and the Ants' "Stand & Deliver," part of a digital bundle fans received when they bought tickets to the shows.
With no untested material to muddy the waters, No Doubt was free to play a greatest-hits show that highlighted its diversity and strength as musicians. After taking the stage behind a lighted scrim that made their silhouettes look like larger-than-life superheroes, the band -- augmented by longtime sidemen Stephen Bradley and Gabrial McNair on keyboards, horns and backing vocals -- wasted little time in getting the party started with its skankworthy 1996 hit "Spiderwebs."
What began as a lightweight cross of influences from Missing Persons' quirky new wave and the '80s British ska revival evolved into a credible, platinum hit machine. At the Gibson, the band seemed stronger than ever and appeared to be savoring the opportunity to celebrate its past. In the ballad "Running," film clips of the group's rise to fame were projected on the video backdrop as Stefani sang wistfully about life on the road.
With Stefani's three-knot hairdo and drummer Adrian Young's black-and-white Mohawk, black lipstick, jockstrap and checkered leg warmers (for the encore, he donned a pink-and-white tutu), the band showed off its quirkiness. With the futuristic, all-white stage set and "Clockwork Orange"-inspired wardrobe, it showed its flash. In the end, however, it was about the music. Most impressive was the rhythm section of Young and Tony Kanal, which has graduated from its ska roots to authentic dub and dancehall in such songs as "Underneath It All" and "Rock Steady," and Tom Dumont's flamenco-influenced acoustic guitar solo in "Don't Speak." Welcome back, boys and Gwen; we didn't realize how much we missed you.
No Doubt returns to the Gibson on Monday and Tuesday before moving to the O.C. for four dates at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine (July 31-Aug. 2 and Aug. 4).
Venue: Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City (Wednesday, July 22)