No Doubt: Spirit on Stage

by Dan on August 9, 2009


This past Tuesday, I got to see the 80’s hair metal band Whitesnake at the SDSU Open Air Theatre.  I was able to witness the amazing David Coverdale, the frontman who just defies age.  It was a very inspiring night, and I will post more about it later.

Why am I mentioning this now?  Because it was the prelude to something far greater.  Whitesnake was the herald for No Doubt coming to the Cricket Wireless Amphitheater.

The Tragic Kingdom album was high on the charts when I was fifteen and a sophomore in high school.  I remember doing cardio sessions in my garage while the CD was playing, as I was getting in good shape for the swim team.  I loved the album, but never really got into the later ones.

Then they went on hiatus while Gwen Stefani became a pop superstar on her own.

There was a lot of hype about the reunion tour, and I read good reviews.  On a whim, I bought a ticket close to the front for $50.  Knowing what I do now, I would have paid 2-3 times that.

I saw a few great concerts while in college, notably Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Pantera, and Savatage.  Since 2001, no concert had come close to matching those performances.  For a while I wondered if it was my age and perspective.  At age 27 and having seen almost every favorite band of mine, had I grown out of the amazing concert experience.  Did you need an idealistic naiveté to truly have your world rocked by a show?

No Doubt proved that age of life changing concerts is still in tact.

The two opening bands, The Sounds, and Panic! At the Disco, were both good and I don’t think anyone had any complaints.  When No Doubt came on, the whole arena erupted in energy.

They opened with “Spiderwebs,” and everyone started grooving to the music.

There’s something liberating about Gwen Stefani and the rest of the group.  When watching them on stage, you get the feeling that they’d be doing the same thing whether there’s an audience or not.  They do silly, goofy dances and wear styles that are just BAD.  It’s not that they’re unique, they’re bad period.  If any other hot girl I know had her hair done up like hers, with her random buns and clips, I’d think she was trying to avoid getting hit on.  And that’s part of the charm.

Gwen Stefani is beautiful, but it goes beyond that.  She has a stage presence that is unmatched by almost every performer I’ve seen.  When she sings at the crowd, everyone feels very loved and empowered.  When this feeling has spread to the entire arena, great liberation is experienced.

I got to take a good look at the people around me before the show began.  There were women who were very overweight, with slumpy posture, and drab clothing.  Their hair had not seen a blowdryer or hair product in recent times.  They were they type of women that huddle together in a corner at a bar, and assume any guy coming up to say hi is just laughing at them.

With Gwen’s loving acceptance and empowerment, the women who would feel unworthy to even dance at the dive bar suddenly transformed.  They tossed their hair back, swayed their hips, and oozed the sexuality that had been hidden for the entire time they’d been doubting themselves.  They felt safe to show their passion, and it was silently revealed that what they’d been holding back was something wonderful everyone would enjoy.  I’m convinced now that you really don’t need to be taught how to dance; you just need the permission to let your self shine through.

None of this outlook Gwen shared was said literally.  It was in her eyes, her smile, her energy.  We were not fans, but guests in their home.  The band members were our hosts, guiding the night, but we felt as equals.  From their family unit on stage, they extended that intimate inclusiveness to everyone who could hear them.

In my time doing the Release Technique, I’ve been getting closer and closer to the imperturbable state.  It is this place, called “freedom,” where you allow nothing to ever bother you again.  You give up your need to be better than others, as well as your need for approval entirely.  You stop needing things or assets to feel safe and comfortable.  You can just “be,” and that is enough.

I got a taste of what freedom really feels like at the No Doubt concert.  At one point, during the song “Different People,” my mind just vanished.  My body was still moving, but there was an extreme sense of presence, peace, and love.  There was no need for anything at all.  It got a little scary for a moment, as I wondered how I could survive in that state at all times.  The ego likes to pretend that our worrying and micromanagement of our problems are what keeps us alive, when in truth, you can live a lot more easily without struggle.

While at most concerts, one wants to position his or her head for a good view of the stage, it was a little different here.  For long segments, I could just have my eyes closed and bathe in the presence of what was around me.  It was as spiritual as any rock concert could be.

One of the songs had, in the background, a montage of home videos of the band’s years before they got a record deal.  You could see the same love and peace in them back then as we were seeing before our very eyes.  They didn’t wait until they were rock stars to be happy.  Their love light was shining through even when they had jobs at Dairy Queen.

While a lot of bands are doing big tours for either power or money (and understandably so), No Doubt really looked like they were playing out of joy.  As for the actual singing and instrumentation, every band member was glorious.  Gwen sang amazingly and flawlessly, and the rest of the band’s passion came through their instruments.  The band both brings the best out of themselves, and the best out of their audience.

I can’t recommend their show enough.  Their tour is done for this year, but if you can find a chance to see them in the future, go at any cost.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero August 18, 2012 at 12:41 pm

What a perfect description of their vibe. I have been a No Doubt fan since I accidentally bought their CD when there used to be real record stores. I loved the cover of Gwen holding a rotting orange on the Tragic Kingdom album and became a fast fan. Love EVERY song on that album. In fact I don’t think they have ever done a bad song (unless you count some of Gwen’s solo stuff in the early 2000s). Love their new song, “Settle Down” and I can hardly wait for their album to drop on September 25, 2012. Great review, Daniel!

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