concert reviews

Gwen Stefani at Nissan Pavilion, Bristow, VA, Thursday 17 May 2007

As Gwen Stefani beamed over her adoring fans Thursday night at Nissan Pavilion, her incredulous comment "Can you believe this is my life?" seemed a bit out of place. After being in the spotlight for more than a decade, her fame is anything but unbelievable: She's successfully branched out from her original band, No Doubt, to a dance-pop solo career, a clothing line (L.A.M.B.) and the silver screen ("The Aviator").

As such, her 90-minute show was more about Stefani the captivating persona than Stefani the singer. Good thing, too. The few songs that focused more on her voice came across as frail and thin; a typhoon of keyboards and percussion washed out her wispy ballad "4 in the Morning." For the most part, the show centered on spectacle: her elaborate costumes, eight-member dance troupe and intricate props (including a stage-long treadmill) captured the theatrical elements that so many of her songs require. And the plot of the show was Gwen -- her attitude ("Hollaback Girl"), her nostalgia ("Wonderful Life"), and most of all, her extravagant lifestyle ("Luxurious").

Stefani tried to connect on an equal level with her fans: She bounded to the back of the pavilion to serenade those seated in the lawn with "Cool," and she begged the crowd to sing along with "Orange County Girl," shouting, "That's the only [expletive] reason I'm here, is to hear you guys sing!" The song made her seem almost human (she is, after all, "just an Orange County girl"), but its many allusions to her other songs and to her clothing line revealed Stefani's true allure: that her modesty is about as thin as her iconic coo.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 19 May 2007; Page C12
.: Selected discography: The Sweet Escape (Gwen Steani, 2006); Love. Angel. Music. Baby. (Gwen Stefani, 2004); Everything in Time (No Doubt, 2004); The Singles 1992-2003 (No Doubt, 2003); Rock Steady (No Doubt, 2001); Return of Saturn (No Doubt, 2000); Tragic Kingdom (No Doubt, 1995); Beacon Street Collection (No Doubt, 1995); No Doubt (No Doubt, 1992).