October 24, 2005

Gwen Stefani leaves no doubt she’s a solo star

By Craig Rosen

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When Cher closed out her
farewell tour last spring at the Hollywood Bowl, she threw down
the gauntlet to the young divas to try to follow her act. We
don't know whether Gwen Stefani actually knew about the
challenge, but Cher might have met her match.

With only one solo album to her credit, the 36-year-old
singer filled the fabled venue with rabid fans, spectacle and
ambition, leaving no doubt that she is a star capable of
holding her own -- with or without her bandmates. This blonde
bombshell clearly has chutzpah to spare. She has -- at least
temporarily -- strayed from the comfort of No Doubt, the band
she's fronted for nearly two decades, and opted to launch a
tour sans their repertoire, relying solely on her solo

It's a bold move, but Stefani showed she has the star power
and talent to pull it off Friday, with a diverse set that had
her moving from frantic new wave and silky R&B-flavored slow
jams to cheerleader-inspired shout-a-longs and reflective
ballads, complete with multiple costume changes.

Opening the show on a throne rising from the stage, Stefani
wasted little time getting the party started with "Harajuku
Girls," a dose of Asian-flavored funk named for the quartet of
female Japanese dancers that joined her on stage for the bulk
of the show.

The stage set, which included two banks of LCD lights and a
video screen, was effectively incorporated into the production.
One moment the video showed Gwen frolicking on the beach in a
vintage swimsuit, and the next she rose up from the rafters
wearing the costume. During the new song "Orange Country Girl,"
the screen projected vintage photos of Stefani, touchingly
chronicling her rise from suburbia to stardom.

One of Stefani's most appealing aspects is that she's
capable of moving from vintage pin-up to modern B-girl, as was
the case with "Crash," a raunchy, Peaches-style electro-romp.
Unfortunately, Stefani's decision to stretch it out into an
audience shout-along drained it of some of its impact.

A capable five-piece backing band remained mostly in the
shadows with the exception of bassist/backup singer Gail Ann
Dorsey. Known for her work with David Bowie, Dorsey nearly
stole the smoldering Isley Brothers-sampling "Luxurious,"
taking over the vocals as Stefani descended into the stage for
another costume change.

For the funked-up interpretation of "Rich Girl," Stefani
donned pirate garb. She transformed into Marilyn Monroe in a
sparkling evening gown for the ballad "Cool" and turned
marching bandleader for "Hollaback Girl," performed with a drum

The real surprise was that all the hits came within the
set, leaving fans guessing about what she'd pull out for an
encore. Gwen answered with the pleasant new wave-funk of
"Serious" and the deliriously catchy "Bubble Pop Electric,"
co-written by OutKast's Andre 3000 under the alter ego Johnny

Stefani no longer is just the No Doubt singer. As one young
fan observed, she's the new Madonna.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter