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No Doubt Makes Itself at Home

O.C. pop music review: Band makes history as the first local act to perform as headliners at a major county venue.

June 02, 1997|MIKE BOEHM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — It may have been the giddiest night of hometown rocking ever presided over by a band from Orange County.

Then again, every night is pretty giddy when No Doubt plays.

Saturday's show at the Pond of Anaheim was also historic: Before a sold-out house of more than 12,000 predominantly teenage and preteen fans, most of whom jumped as if they were on pogo sticks and screamed at a pitch reminiscent of a long-ago Beatles concert, No Doubt completed a circle that no other Orange County rock band has navigated.

Members Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont had risen from a garage practice room a short jog from Disneyland to headlining status at their hometown arena--a two-night engagement, at that. No other Orange County band had headlined a show at the Pond before, or at the county's other major pop venues, Irvine Meadows and the now-abandoned Pacific Amphitheatre. (No Doubt played the Pond in March 1996, but that was a warmup to headliner Bush.)

With its catchy songs, springy rhythms and a stage show full of infectious, nonstop energy, No Doubt has become a phenomenon to the tune of 10-million worldwide sales (6.5 million in the U.S., according to SoundScan) for its career-making 1995 release, "Tragic Kingdom." But the band members, who are in their late 20s and went through 10 years of struggle before stardom struck, have always been a levelheaded bunch. Rather than engage in special preening for a special occasion, No Doubt put on its usual show, with ringleader Stefani making frequent references to being back home, but never gloating about the milestone at hand.

The only marked change from No Doubt's last O.C. concert--on Halloween night 1996 at the 5,000-capacity Bren Events Center--was the fancy stage set, with its haunted-forest motif and elaborate lighting design. Also new was the wild-woman Amazon tangle of Stefani's coiffure, a departure from her ponytailed just-a-girl and wavy glamour-doll phases. As usual, she raced and strutted about the stage with astonishing stamina, comporting herself as a cross between a wide-eyed, innocent Dorothy in Oz and a confidently sassy, occasionally cussing counselor at summer camp.

During one pause, Stefani neatly encapsulated the incongruity of returning home a rock star.

"The weird part," she said from the stage, "is staying in the hotel down the street in your own town."

Hotel living will be No Doubt's lot through July, when the band is scheduled to complete what has stretched into a two-year cycle of touring to promote "Tragic Kingdom."

Though its approach is friendly and lighthearted, No Doubt is hardly a kiddie-pop band a la New Kids on the Block. Still, it would be hard to find another band initially launched on modern-rock radio that has such a large draw of preteen fans.

"I like Gwen's attitude. I like her personality," said 11-year-old Ariana Tosatto of Sherman Oaks. Her tiny friend, Laura Corby, 10, was awaiting her first-ever rock concert. She sported an excited gleam in her eyes, a blond ponytail a la Gwen, a No Doubt shirt several sizes too large for her and heavy boots and black fishnet stockings like she had seen Stefani wear in photos.

Ariana said her opportunities to dress up like Gwen tend to be "very rare" because of strict orders from her mom--the girls' chaperon for the evening. But it wasn't hard to spot others of the sort Stefani has jokingly dubbed "Gwen girls," with crop tops, striped track-and-field warmup slacks and bared belly buttons the key to the look.

Carolyn Moustakas of Anaheim Hills said that bringing her 11-year-old son, Shane, to the show was mandatory: "He's in love with her." They were standing about 40 feet from the stage, with show time approaching, so there was no need to ask who "her" might be.

Shane insisted that his was no schoolboy crush, no mere puppy love, but a deeper admiration born of sincere aesthetic regard. "I think she's pretty, but I just like her music. She's a good singer."

While the kid corps was numerous, veteran No Doubt fans were not hard to find.

"We're from Anaheim, the home city of [expletive] Gwen, dude, and No Doubt," crowed Kresta Klohr, who stood in the Pond's parking lot with about 10 other fans in their early 20s. Most of them had arrived in a battered 1965 Volkswagen van with windows bearing the soap-script announcement: "Orange County Loves No Doubt." Klohr and her friend, Jennifer Canaday, both have followed No Doubt for five years; Canaday said she first saw No Doubt at Caffe Nove, a dinky venue in Anaheim.

Not all the parents had kids in tow. Dennis and Dovelynn Brinton--40 and 37, respectively-- had left their three No Doubt-loving daughters at home in Rancho Santa Margarita.

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