Before taking a final bow with the entire band, the last thing Gwen Stefani did during No Doubt’s Bowl show was ask a few fans for a camera. Lying on the stage with her head as close to the audience as possible, she snapped a straight-armed shot, then handed back her fan’s point-and-shoot. Although it lasted all of about 15 seconds, the interaction described No Doubt’s sold-out performance at the S.B. Bowl-this show was all about the fans.
Playing like a mix tape of their best and most well-known tracks, Wednesday’s set list ranged from ska-heavy Tragic Kingdom numbers to the more dancehall-friendly beats of Rock Steady.
After starting off with “Spiderwebs,” Gwen and Co. plunged straight into “Hella Good” and “Underneath It All.” Decked out in white pants tucked into tall black boots and a crop-top wife beater, Stefani sprinted across the vast stage, hamming it up with each of her bandmates and engaging in a battle of high kicks with bassist Tony Kanal, whose neon-pink-and-yellow guitar was a sharp contrast to the stark white stage setup. Later, the familiar drumbeats of “Bathwater” faded into an energized horn intermission, allowing Stefani to slip into something a little more sparkly. (Imagine someone spilling a Costco-sized container of glitter onto a checkers board, then fashioning it into a onesie, and you get the idea.)
No Doubt at the Santa Barbara Bowl 2009
The band then ripped into “New” and Stefani climbed into the crowd, grabbing audience members’ hands and pointing and smiling at the frenzied cluster of youngsters who surged closer. Once she got back onstage, Stefani hovered close to the mike for “Running,” which featured a poignant series of video clips from the band’s earliest days together.
As the familiar riffs of “Just a Girl” cut through the air, Stefani dropped to the stage and counted off a set of pushups. It was a perfect ending to this retrospective show: The Anaheim girl who first showed the world that a muscled chick can be hot proved there’s nothing sexier than a strong and independent woman. It’s something the No Doubt faithful grew up believing, and it’s something we all witnessed this past Wednesday night.