On its first tour in seven years, No Doubt might be packing large venues like Starlight Theater on Monday night, but they’re playing them like a hungry band, working the crowd for a place to crash afterward.
When she wasn’t speaking directly to the fans, Stefani and company were giving them exactly what they wanted: a heavy dose of the hits that made the band big in the first place. The setlist resembled the tracklist of the greatest hits album No Doubt released before going on hiatus and jumped off the stage like a celebration of the 11 years they’d shared prior.
The opening ska bounce of “Spiderwebs” had the crowd eating out of Stefani’s hand, singing, swaying and dancing on cue. That number fell into the electro pop of “Hella Good.” The tempos may have changed throughout the night, but the energy never lagged. Through it all, Stefani was never still, dancing, spinning, jumping and unceasingly working the crowd.
The other five musicians onstage gave no evidence of any time apart. Drummer Adrian Young sat in the middle of the all-white stage, his kit the centerpiece of a six-legged platform that looked like a futuristic insect. He was flanked by multi-instrumentalists Stephen Bradley and Gabrial McNair who handled horns, keyboards and backing vocals. Stefani, guitarist Tom Dumont and bass player Tony Kanal navigated the rest of the stage.
Behind them all, a large screen played videos during most songs. The best bits were the James Bond parody during “”Ex-Girlfriend” and the homemade videos of the band’s early days accompanying the ballad “Running.”
“Don’t Speak” drew the biggest response, but it was nearly matched by “Just a Girl,” which closed the main set. As Dumont played its spidery opening riff, Stefani dropped to the floor and counted out push-ups with the crowd. After reaching 10, she sprung to her feet and launched into the verse. Both feats drew massive cheers.
One got the feeling during Paramore’s 40-minute set that they brought as many fans as the headliners. The quintet’s set was marked by a constant stream of young fans rushing as close to the stage as their parents would let them to snap a souvenir photo. The setlist tipped heavily toward their 2007 album “Riot,” which delighted the devoted, who hung on singer Hayley Williams’ every word. The two new songs -– which blended almost too well with the older material -– and set-closing “Decode,” from the “Twilight” soundtrack were extra treats.
Bedouin Soundclash opened the evening with a 30-minute set. Their sound was indebted to the Two-Tone sound of the Specials and did a good job of establishing the evening’s feel.
After No Doubt returned for “Rock Steady,” Bedouin Soundclash and Paramore joined them for “Stand and Deliver.” Nearly all of the dozen musicians onstage pounded the various drums brought out while Stefani and Williams swapped verses. No Doubt drummer Young managed to stand out in the crowd by parading around wearing only a pink-and-white tutu, marching snare drum and calf-high athletic socks.
The night ended with “Sunday Morning,” which like so many No Doubt triumphs hit the sweet spot between pop, ska, dance and rock. When the music ended, the band lingered onstage signing autographs, tossing souvenirs and shaking hands. Just like they did in their native Southern California clubs a lifetime ago.
Joel Francis, Special to The Star
No Doubt: Spiderwebs, Hella Good, Underneath It All, Excuse Me Mr., Ex-Girlfriend, End It On This, Total Hate 95, Simple Kind of Life, Bathwater, Guns of Navarone, New, Hey Baby, Running, Different People, Don’t Speak, It’s My Life, Just a Girl//encore: Rock Steady, Stand and Deliver, Sunday Morning
Paramore: Misery Business, For a Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic, Pressure, Ignorance (new song), Crush Crush Crush, When It Rains, Where the Lines Overlap (new song), That’s What You Get, Let the Flames Begin, Decode