The lights dim and the murmur of thousands of excited voices in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center grows to a roar. Four outlines are lit up on the stage and the crowd goes crazy–parents, preteens, twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, girlfriends, boyfriends, even strangely out-of-place middle-aged men yell and jump and the band haven’t picked up their instruments yet. The arena darkens again and one of the most recognized guitar riffs of the mid-1990s fills the air, from No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs.”
And the energy never stops. No Doubt are one of the tightest live groups out there, even after a five-year hiatus from the stage. With just a single misstep during an interlude by trumpet player Stephen Bradley, a person who knew nothing about No Doubt would have no idea that the band hadn’t been on stage in years, that Stefani has had two children in the meantime, or that all the band members are pushing 40 years old, if they haven’t pushed past it already.
Opening for No Doubt at Tiger Jam XII in Las Vegas were The Sounds and Paramore. It was refreshing to see three musically tight and talented bands fronted by female singers. The Sounds, whom you may remember first seeing on Dave Grohl’s shirt in the Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These” video, are an amazing band from Sweden who still tell reporters they rely on “word of mouth and concerts to promote” their music. If that was their goal, the Sounds certainly accomplished that with their performance. It seemed as though Maja Ivarsson, the lead singer, was channeling a combination of Stefani, Debbie Harry from Blondie and Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons. Her stage presence was commanding as she strutted across the stage in her stiletto heels and boyshorts. Although Ivarsson drew in the crowd visually, the standout member of the Sounds had to be Jesper Anderberg. He not only rocked the keyboards, but switched instruments throughout the set and held the band together.
Paramore arrived on stage soon after. When the adolescent screams of the crowd subsided after the second song, you could finally hear in Paramore’s performance a musicianship improved by several years of constant touring. The commercialization and overplaying of their singles does not do their musical skills justice. The crowd responded much better to the popular songs, but the band also highlighted “Ignorance,” a new track from their forthcoming third studio album. They were tight and put on a great show, but they lacked the stage presence of The Sounds before them and the true passion and charisma of No Doubt.
While Stefani was out on her solo tour, she and the rest of No Doubt tried to write new music separately. That didn’t work out too well and the band decided to tour together, hoping to inspire each other and write their new album on the road. On stage, Stefani told the audience that it was all on them if the band made a new record. Although the months since No Doubt announced their tour seemed to pass quickly for the band’s most rabid fans, it was apparent that the band put a lot of time and effort into preparing for this tour. For example, the stage’s background screen only featured one music video, “Underneath it All,” while brand new footage backed the rest of the band’s performance.
Performances of songs from Tragic Kingdom, Return of Saturn, and Rock Steady sounded almost exactly like the studio versions, with the addition of Stefani’s amazing live voice. The band did alter “Excuse Me Mr.,” exchanging the driving drum beat with that of the rocksteady style No Doubt have embraced over the past decade. Stefani has a stage aura rivaled by few, but still managed to keep it all about the band and not her. Tom Dumont captivated the audience with his unforgettable guitar riffs while Tony Kanal held the band together with steady bass lines. The band seemed more human than ever, drinking from red party cups and laughing at each other. Stefani ran to the back of the arena during “Just a Girl,” unfazed as a security detail fended off fans around her, and a rendition of Adam and the Ants’ “Stand and Deliver” featured Adrian Young dancing around the stage with a tutu and marching band drum and getting the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to his dad.
No Doubt ended with the audience wanting more, but satisfied with hearing almost all of their favorite songs. Closing with an energetic version of “Sunday Morning,” No Doubt’s performance marked one of the most memorable concert experiences ever. If anything, No Doubt has only gotten better with age and with their first show as amazing as it was, hopefully it develops into a long-awaited new studio album.
Remaining Tour Dates:
07/22/2009 – Gibson Amphitheatre – Universal City, CA
07/24/2009 – Sleep Train Amphitheatre – Sacramento, CA
07/25/2009 – Shoreline Ampitheatre – Mountain View, CA
07/27/2009 – Gibson Amphitheatre – Universal City, CA
07/28/2009 – Gibson Amphitheatre – Universal City, CA
07/31/2009 – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater – Irvine, CA
08/01/2009 – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater – Irvine, CA
08/02/2009 – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater – Irvine, CA
08/04/2009 – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater – Irvine, CA
08/05/2009 – Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
08/07/2009 – The Joint – Las Vegas, NV
08/08/2009 – Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre – San Diego, CA
08/11/2009 – Neal S. Blaisdell Center – Honolulu, HI
08/12/2009 – Neal S. Blaisdell Center – Honolulu, HI