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After hearing No Doubtís latest album, Rocksteady, most people were convinced the world had seen the last of No Doubt as a band, for it was just a matter of time before Gwen Stefani ventured into a solo career.
With the club rhythms, mostly keyboard based, being passed off as a "return to their reggae roots," Rocksteady seemed like the album to follow up Stefaniís work with Moby and Eve, far from a No Doubt album. Live however, the rest of the band, made up of guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal and drummer Adrian Young, added their own musical flavors to transform the songs into something resembling the carribean music they allegedly based the songs on.
The band opened with current single, "Hella Good," which definitely pleased a few of the younger, more radio-friendly fans of the band. For the older fans, they were happy to see the band add a true rock edge to the song, rather than hiding behind studio musicians and samplers.
For the better part of the 18 song, hour and 45-minute set, the band did what they have done for years, bounce around and play ska/rock songs about life after a failed relationship, having a cheating boyfriend and dancing like an idiot. Some of these themes seemed to lose their emotion now, some seven years after Tragic Kingdomís pained emotional traumas were put to rest.
Stefani has it, "it" being the energy and self-assuredness to come off as a rock front-woman. She had the bounce of a wild teen, the voice of a hardened Betty Boop and the stamina of an aerobics instructor. Few could argue she does not have the ability to hold an audienceís attention. The rest of the band seemed a little stagnant, except for a few scripted moments of bouncing to the music.
For the first 14 songs, the set contained less popular songs accented by a few pseudo-hits like "Ex-girlfriend" and "Simple Kind of Life." The lack of any of the major hits from the set up to that point seemed to be unnoticed. All of the fans in the venue did not waste a single moment whining about the set list, only dancing along. Of course, it was when the hits started that the momentum broke.
Rather than saving the mega-hit ballad, "Donít Speak" for the encore, the band decided to add it to the main set. They placed it right between the upbeat "Excuse Me, Mr." and the club track, "Hey Baby." This move totally broke the momentum of the set and lost a lot of the people who were having a good time dancing. Even though it was already on the set list, their insertion of "Just a Girl" as the final track seemed like a last ditch effort to get the momentum that "Donít Speak" and "Hey Baby" took from the set. The audience bounced along, but the addition of "Donít Speak" to the high point of the set definitely helped kill the potential energy of the end of the set.
An encore, scripted no less, of "Rocksteady" and "Spiderwebs" definitely left the set on a high note, but one could not help envision the energy of the set had the band scripted out their set list a little more thoughtfully. It is nice to get to the hits, but not at the cost of momentum. Mark this show down as a lesson in set planning.