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No Doubt rewards loyal fans in Hawaii with regular visits


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POSTED: Friday, August 07, 2009

Of all the rock shows I've worked on and covered for the local print news over the many years, I've always had a soft spot for No Doubt.

Sure, they might not be part of the Rock Pantheon of Important Artists, but the chemistry of Gwen Stefani onstage with her longtime band and with the Hawaii fans has been an affectionate and honest one. And they always put on a lively show.

It's been a 14-year-old love affair between Hawaii and No Doubt, and considering the band's two consecutive concerts here in Honolulu this weekend, it looks like the fire isn't going to burn out any time soon.

While the band started way back in 1987 in Orange County in SoCal, we first got wind of Gwen and the gang in 1995, when they opened for 311 at the now-defunct After Dark club on Nimitz Highway.

No Doubt's debut album had just come out, “;Tragic Kingdom”; on the independent Trauma Records label, and the video for “;Just a Girl,”; plus the album's subsequent singles “;Spiderwebs”; and “;Don't Speak,”; was going to get them the national buzz, thanks to the corporate Universal Music picking up the album.

So come the following year, the band was one of the most anticipated acts at Big Mele, a rock festival held at Kualoa Ranch. They were part of a strong bill that included Cypress Hill, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Dance Hall Crashers.

I was working with the local office of the SoCal Goldenvoice concert promotions as an occasional behind-the-scenes helper and runner during that time, and I can tell you, seeing Stefani, decked out in her street skater-girl fashion, work the hot and dusty crowd at the Big Mele to a frenzy from one of the stage wings, I could tell she was going to help propel No Doubt to higher heights.

I was also fortunate to work on the band's next show here in May 1998, this time at Richardson Field, when they invited to play on their Nomad Festival bill (that included the Vandals and Cherry Poppin' Daddies) their personal heroes, Madness.

The band's famous British “;Two-Tone”; ska revival sound was part of No Doubt's origins. Stefani told me in an interview back then that as a teenager in love with movie musicals, it was her older brother Eric who made her an instant Madness fan when he brought home a copy of their “;Baggy Trousers”; 7-inch vinyl import single.

Because No Doubt was working on what would become the “;Return of Saturn”; album, it was the band's only concert shows after 2 1/2 years of constant touring. Even then there was already distracting talk about Stefani becoming a solo star in her own right and breaking away from her longtime band mates.

But the band decided to stick together for the time being.

No Doubt would return to the islands two more times: in October 2000 for a show at the University of Hawaii-Manoa's Andrews Amphitheatre as part of a tour to support “;Return to Saturn”; (pretty much of a transitional album, but buoyed by the hits “;Ex-Girlfriend”; and “;Simple Kind of Life”;), and then, finally with Stefani in true pop-star form, in August 2002 at the Blaisdell Center for the “;Rock Steady”; tour.

New, strong songs augmented the band's earlier repertoire of hits that they played in concert—“;Hey Baby,”; “;Hella Good”; and especially “;Underneath It All.”; In an article I wrote to preview Stefani's two sold-out solo shows in early August of '07, I mentioned “;one memorable image from that concert was seeing Stefani perched on the shoulders of her former beau, bassist Tony Kanal, their faces aglow as the audience heartily sang (the chorus of) the band's lovers rock hit (for them).”;

Even after the relative success of her solo work, No Doubt was never far away. Stefani and the band reunited for her shows in Irvine, Calif., earlier on that 2007 tour.

And now, thankfully, two years later, the band is touring together again, and for me, Gwen Stefani is back where she belongs, as the charismatic front woman of No Doubt. Granted, there are no new songs to play, but that's OK for the fans. The band has added three cover songs to their set list during their concerts: “;It's My Life,”; which was on their greatest-hits album, “;The Singles: 1992-2003”;; a well-chosen tune from the classic Jamaican band the Skatalites, the jumping instrumental “;The Guns of Navarone”;; and the New Wave fave “;Stand and Deliver”; from Adam and the Ants as part of their encore.

On behalf of your Hawaii fans, a big mahalo for getting back together, guys.