Tonight we're gonna party like it 19…85? Well, at least that's what it felt like at Universal Amphitheatre on Wednesday 03/27/02 when No Doubt rocked the house with opening act The Faint. The atmosphere was nothing but FUN, FUN, FUN as new wave, dancehall, pop, rock, and ska beats swarmed through my ears.
Leave it to No Doubt, well known 80's lovers, to find a band like The Faint. Reigning from Omaha, Nebraska, The Faint capture the essence of 80's pop culture so well you may think you fell through some sort of time zone. Coming on stage clad in all black, with that classic punk rock meets brit-pop look; the band took to their keyboards and let the flash back begin. I first heard of this band when I found out they were opening for No Doubt, so I wasn't that familiar with the songs that they played; but be assured they were all awesome.
With such a diverse group at this show, ranging from teeny-boppers to adults, I think the crowd was a little confused by The Faint at first. But once these boys showed us what they were made of, the crowd caught on and very much enjoyed what they had to offer. They played tracks from their new album, Danse Macabre, along with some older material. My favorite was by far “Worked up so Sexual“, which sounds like Depeche Mode on speed. With the music world on the brink of a revolution, a long overdue one, The Faint may just be the next big thing. So I suggest everyone go out and get a copy of their current release, Danse Macabre, trust me when I say you'll like it. And if it isn't exactly your taste, go back and listen a couple of times, you never know what may grow on you.
It's a good thing we didn't have to wait too long for No Doubt to take the stage, because the place was ready to burst at the seams with enthusiasm. Then, out they came; those fun kids from Anaheim, only, they aren't kids anymore. All grown up and projecting a much different sound than ever before, No Doubt is just as great, if not better than ever. Although they've lost some of their “I only like ska” fans over the years, their following is still huge. They managed to completely sell out two nights at Universal, and I'm sure could have gone bigger had they wanted to. With the lights low and kind of a slanted upside down V white sheet backdrop, the band crept out on stage as the Rock Steady intro played. Then, as fast as the colorful lights brightened, the “Hella Good” beat started in and the Rock Steady writing began flashing on to the backdrop. “Hella Good” is, dare I be dorky enough to say it, hella good live. This song may have that more “produced” sound to it like “Hey Baby“, but when these songs come to life on stage, they are nothing short of amazing. They are a lot harder sounding live and you can really see where the whole band comes into play.
Next came the talented strumming of Mr. Tony Kanal as he took center stage and started pounding out the bass line of “Sunday Morning“, joined moments later my the smooth drumming of Adrian Young. After about the fourth song or so, the Rock Steady backdrop pulled away to reveal a huge flashing ND sign, which complemented the black and white checkered floor. Although the stage set up wasn't as complex or creative as the Tragic Kingdom tour, the fun and effortlessness of it matches the bands current attitude.
One of the things that I love about No Doubt is their sense of humor. They are wacky and do things that are “tongue in cheek”, so to speak, just for fun; for example, a band having back up dancers on stage. This of course is done in a playful manner and is in no way meant to be a serious thing ala Brittany Spears. These dancers, introduced by singer Gwen Stefani as “The Pussy Cat Dolls”, joined her in a little ass shacking for “Bath Water” and “Hey Baby“. Also partaking in the dancing fun were Stephen Bradley and Gabriel McNair, who are No Doubt's horn players, help out on keyboards, and sing back up during live performances. As they jumped down from their usual spots toward either side of the stage to rap Bounty Killer's part in “Hey Baby“, they sandwiched Gwen for a little bumping and grinding. Another great part of “Hey Baby” live is that instead of seeing Tom Dumont get busy on a guitar, you get to see him strap on one of those keyboard guitar things; and that is just so cool.
The best part of the evening was definitely the last song. In a completely unexpected move, the band played the old school song “Total Hate `95” off The Beacon Street Collection record. Although they had no one fill in for the late Bradley Nowell of Sublime, I'm sure as a gesture of respect and just because no one can lay it down like Bradley, the song rocked just the same.
The set list and performance at this concert were absolutely mind-blowing. This was my fourth time seeing No Doubt and they just keep getting better and better. I guess that is one of the benefits of being a band for 15 years. Another benefit is some pretty devout fans. During, I think, the song “Different People” they slowed the song down as Gwen motioned to the crowd and was saying “Hey, I need you guys to help me out on this next part, O.K.?” Then all of a sudden you see Tony run across the stage and grab Gwen to show her something. Next thing you know they are pulling some kid up on stage that had a No Doubt tattoo on his arm. He got to hug Tony and Gwen and then Gwen took a picture of them together. Talk about a fan's dream come true, and talk about a cool band.
Unfortunately No Doubt has suffered some backlash after releasing Rock Steady, being accused of becoming a pop act and not a real band. But if their accusers would open their ears and listen they'd see that No Doubt is far from pop, and still very much a band. They are more new wave if anything, or in the words of Tony Kanal “new wave squared”. The fact that a band can grow and evolve and still make great music makes them better, not worse. Would the Beatles still be considered one of the greatest bands ever if they had always stayed the same? I think not. No Doubt have taken a bunch of different genre's of music, ranging from rock to reggae, put them in a blender, and then put their own spin on it, and the result is awesome.
This is a band that completely embraces the 80's, and you can not only see this in their music and choice of opening acts, but in the way they dress as well. Tom was wearing a pinstriped suit with floodwater pants and white socks as he pleased all ears in attendance with his amazing guitar solos. Gwen, by far the most outrageous dresser in the band, jumped, bounced, ran, and spun all over the stage in black and white striped Beatle Juice-esque pants with her signature bikini over fishnet top, a too short necktie and a black vest. Tony on the other hand expressed his 80's style in the much subtler manner of a shirt with cut off sleeves and plaid pants. And then there is Adrian; well…he just doesn't wear clothes, but he loves his mo-hawks.
Talent, talent and more talent are what make No Doubt one of the best live acts around, but their unique style and fun, energetic attitude only help improve the experience. If you missed your chance to see them this time around, fret not, you'll have another one when they do a second North American tour later this year.
I hate to preach, but I'm going to anyway, if you are not a fan, you really are missing out. No Doubt is a band that is chocked full of talent and enthusiasm. Their eclectic style and fun attitude makes it clear that when they throw a party, the whole world is invited!
Special thanks to Pierre Bouazza for the pictures!
Show Rating ~ * * * * * (5 of 5)
(Not in Exact Order)
Rock Steady Intro
Underneath it All
Excuse Me Mr.
Don't Let Me Down
In My Head
Simple Kind of Life
Just a Girl
Total Hate `95