Stub Heaven: The Review And The Stub To Prove It: Gwen Stefani, November 2005 AT MSG
I went to see Gwen Stefani with one of her biggest fans, circa Love. Angel. Music. Baby., by which I mean when Gwen would never be any better. We had nosebleeds to the side, but my date at the time was determined, so I followed her lead and we got all the way down to the floor and by the time Gwen got to “Bubble Pop Electric,” Gwen was dangling her legs at our faces.
Something is not said much but I believe it is true, when you go to a show with a huge fan you get off on the fan’s vibe. It’s not like just an audience filled with people cheering, that you get used to and it doesn’t affect you, but if it is somebody you’re close to and she is freaking out, you kinda freak with her.
This was only one of two times I’ve seen Gwen. I was meant to see No Doubt at Continental Arena (RIP) and blew it off, and then I was meant to see them at Roseland in 1996 and I was in line to get in, but I had double dipped and also had a ticket for the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the late Pakistani singer of Qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis, at Radio City Music Hall and literally at the last second I got out of line for No Doubt and walked to Radio City. I don’t regret it either.
The other time I saw Gwen, she was leading No Doubt for one of the greatest sets ever, at Global Citizen 2014: “No Doubt played at the the Forum, a dry run for this gig, on September 23rd, but otherwise they haven’t played in a year, so over and above the sheer drama of Central Park’s Great Lawn, they hadn’t really played together in awhile, and lemme tell you, show me a set that opens with “Hella Good” and whose penultimate number was a thrilling singalong to “Don’t Speak” and I’ll show you an impossible to beat set. I’ve never seen No Doubt live -I’ve seen Jay Z at least twice a year for the past six years including this one, so No Doubt was my largest reason for going to the festival and it was worth it. I have seen Gwen solo (at MSG) and she was hella good, but the woman was a non stop skanking, dancing, singing dynamo as the lead singer from heaven. In a night without a bad set, this was a magical performance. I have nothing NB wise to compare it to, but I will say this, Helen Bach mentioned she saw Paramore open for them a coupla years ago, and Gwen is Haley done right. “I’m just a girl in Central Park” Gwen sang. Not just a girl”
She was just as good at MSG in 2005. She played the entire Love. Angel. Music. Baby, plus the not released at the time “Orange County Girl” and “Wind It Up” -both of them emerged in 2006 on the disappointing The Sweet Escape, although “Wind It Up” is first rate, and listening to it for the first time, both my friend and I burst out laughing at her audacious “The Lonely Goatherd” sample.
The stage was a perfect set-up, state of the art for 2005 with a Japanese meets 1950s flava in ya ear, and Gwen looking clearly stunning. It was a joyful, fun, smart 90 minutes of neon and dance. Gwen would never come close to this height again, now she is a celebrity star, her last two albums with No Doubt deservedly stiffed, and her solo career has been a disaster. Last years awful Christmas album didn’t do anything, and if it wasn’t for her TV gig on “The Voice,” where would she be?
Having said that, Gwen hasn’t toured since forever (that Global Citizen gig was a one off), and for sure, she could sell out an Arena though not a Stadium tour whenever she wanted. But she will never be able to shock me with “Wind It Up” or leave me dangling at her feet. PS: $50 -it would be double that today.