By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star
On its first tour in seven years, No Doubt might be packing large venues like Starlight Theatre on Monday night, but it’s playing them like a hungry band working the crowd for a place to crash afterward.
The few times the band paused during its 95-minute set, singer Gwen Stefani read the crowd’s homemade signs and called fans toting gifts up to the stage.
After tossing a sign spray-painted with a request for “Total Hate 95,” one fan was rewarded with a performance of the rare number. Later, after accepting the cross-stitched logos another fan made, a genuinely touched Stefani hauled her admirer onstage for a quick photo op.
When she wasn’t speaking to the crowd, 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 track list of the greatest hits album No Doubt released before going on hiatus, a celebration of the 11 years they’ve shared.
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 the band brought as many fans as the headliners. The power pop 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 photo.
The setlist tipped heavily toward the 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.
After No Doubt returned for “Rock Steady,” Bedouin Soundclash and Paramore joined the band 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, band members lingered onstage signing autographs, tossing souvenirs and shaking hands.
Just as they did in their native Southern California clubs a lifetime ago.
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