Childlike joy, sexy beat make No Doubt fun

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
October 13, 2002

To watch No Doubt on stage, you’d never guess the musicians have ever had anything but happiness in their careers. Some bands are good at faking a good show, but few exude the kind of carefree, childlike joy that makes a show so much fun.

Friday night at the Allstate Arena, the California band, fronted by Gwen Stefani, performed just shy of two hours, kicking off the show with “Hella Good.” The sexy dance beat set the tone for the evening: No Doubt plays, and the audience tries to shake it as best it can. Not a difficult thing to do with a song like “Hella Good,” driven by Adrian Young’s drumming and a chunky bass line created by Tony Kanal’s bass guitar and a keyboard.

Never mind that the band’s crisp sound fell prey to the venue’s consistently murky acoustics. Stefani’s unusually inflected vocals managed to ring through, whether she was admonishing a lover to stop talking about his ex-girlfriends or relating the antics that go on backstage from her bird’s-eye view.

Tall, slim and sassy, Stefani looked smashing in a black-and-white crop top, camouflage pants with sparkly piping and red, white and black wrestling boots. Peering into the audience, she looked startled–and then pleased–to spot a fan who had obviously spent some time creating a Stefani-like outfit. Bringing the girl on stage, Stefani said, “I just wanted to show her. She’s so cute.”

Before singing their breakthrough song, “Just a Girl,” Stefani slowly lowered herself to the floor and did a series of perfect push-ups, as if to punctuate to anyone in the audience who might not have realized that the song is satirical. Though now in her early 30s, Stefani is still girlish. But she’s not a girlie girl. She’s the cool kid every girl wants to hang with and every boy wants to date. (Sorry boys, she’s off the market. She recently married longtime boyfriend Gavin Rossdale of Bush.)

Part of the fun derives from the unabandoned way Stefani moves on stage. Sure, she has the sexy belly rolls and undulations down pat. But more often than not, she’s jumping around and taking long, exaggerated steps to the beat of the music.

No Doubt’s latest album, “Rock Steady,” has less of the delicious ska beats that made songs such as “Spiderwebs” such a refreshing presence in pop music. But it also shows off Stefani’s increasing comfort in baring her soul. “There’s times when I want something more/Someone more like me,” she sings in “Underneath It All.”

It’s a safe bet that there were a few thousand in attendance who couldn’t have agreed with her more.

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