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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Alaina Demopoulos

No Doubt at Coachella review – a joyous, high-energy reunion

woman sings on stage
Gwen Stefani of No Doubt. Photograph: Valérie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Coachella loves a reunion. See: Siouxsie and the Banshees in 2002, the Pixies in 2004, Rage Against the Machine in 2007. But there are reunions, and then there is getting the band back together – harnessing the energy that makes a band click in the first place. And that’s what happened when No Doubt came together on the main Coachella stage on Saturday night, performing together for the first time in nearly a decade.

Though the ska group was not quite the headliner – officially, it was Tyler The Creator’s night – No Doubt’s rollicking hour-and-20-minute set could have ended the night on its own. Frontwoman Gwen Stefani wins MVP of Coachella so far. I’m half her age and I experienced crippling back pain come 8pm just after walking around the campground all afternoon. I have no idea how she sustained enough energy to sing, jump and skank around the stage for as long as she did.

Despite Stefani’s long-documented and unfortunate habit of cringe cultural appropriation (there was her Harajuku lovers phase, and that time she, a white woman, told an interviewer, “I’m Japanese”), I’ve grown up with her. She has a star power wrapped up in a long-curated aesthetic: bleached blond hair, ruby red lipstick and space buns, always space buns. She’s the center of attention, but No Doubt is a group effort, held together by guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal, and drummer Adrian Young.

At the beginning of their Coachella set, archival footage played in the background, showing images of a band goofing around as twentysomethings. It was sweet, especially juxtaposed against their middle-aged reality – they clearly still enjoy the experience as much as they did as kids.

Certain needle drops like Hey Baby and Hella Good served as a catharsis and release for a crowd that clearly wanted to have fun. The band got an assist on Bathwater when the surprise guest Olivia Rodrigo strutted onstage in a white tank top blazed with “I [Heart] No Doubt.” Stefani is a dynamic, dramatic performer, and her energy against the former theater kid Rodrigo felt a little too saccharine for me, though it was fascinating to witness a the pop punk elder symbolically pass the baton of superstardom to the new-ish kid on the block.

Though Rodrigo covered Just a Girl on tour, Stefani sang the classic alone – that is if you don’t count the audience, who joined in when she cheekily asked the boys in the crowd to sing that titular call-and-repeat line. Stefani wrote the power anthem for disaffected feminists in her early 20s. Watching her now, at 52, confidently plow through the song, adding in push-ups, crowd work and primal screaming to the performance is the type of full-circle moment most artists dream of.

The audience – or at least the girls dancing around me – would have gagged at a medley of Stefani’s solo hits such as Hollaback Girl, Cool or The Sweet Escape. At one point, Stefani mentioned “dust[ing] off the old shit”, and the sequined cutoff-clad young woman next to me yelled: “We want your shit!”

I hate to agree; hearing Stefani sing the breakup acceptance song Cool with Kanal, who the song is about, on bass would have healed some deeply broken pieces of my heart. I made do with Don’t Speak, written in the immediate aftermath of their split, that’s angry, disorienting, more raw – and terrifically fun to scream out in a crowd.

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