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POP MUSIC REVIEW

No Doubt and Garbage keep things fresh

The bands play familiar favorites but display versatility, staying power and considerable charm in their shows in the Southland.

November 25, 2002|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

What did No Doubt do after selling out three arena shows and adding a fourth near its hometown of Anaheim? Why, the multi-platinum ska-punk-new-wave quartet went to Disneyland, where it was awarded the key to the city on Friday afternoon.

Later that night, singer Gwen Stefani and the band wowed fans at the Long Beach Arena, where they were also scheduled to play on Saturday as well as this Friday, before ending their tour on Saturday at the Arrowhead Pond.

Headlining a bill that included techno-rockers Garbage and punk revivalists the Distillers, No Doubt made a playfully over-the-top entrance not unlike one of the hyper-pop entertainments at the Magic Kingdom, which the group famously mocked in songs on its 1995 album "Tragic Kingdom." Rising through the end of the runway extending from their two-level stage, Stefani, guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal and drummer Adrian Young immediately cranked the energy to 11 with the emphatic "Hella Good."

The band opened its March performance at the Universal Amphitheatre with the same tune, from its current "Rock Steady" album, and much of the 90-minute set recalled that show.

Similarly, Garbage's 45-minute turn was a familiar grab bag from its three albums, although the players subtly changed some arrangements to keep listeners (and, doubtless, themselves) interested. Despite the lack of surprises, both appearances were powerful reminders of each band's versatility, staying power and considerable charm.

Frisky and revved-up, Garbage singer Shirley Manson played the punk-rock girlie-girl in her black capri tights with pink pleated skirt and pink high-tops, her short red hair spiked in rumpled Sid Vicious style. She sang tunes from last year's "Beautiful Garbage" and other works with the effortless command of one used to leading the sonic juggernaut driven by drummer Butch Vig and guitarists-keyboardists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker.

The beats and self-recriminations of "Stupid Girl" ricocheted like bullets in the cavernous space, but Manson was also rivetingly intimate during the forlorn, torchy "Milk."

No Doubt worked even harder to get every snap, crackle and pop out of selections from "Rock Steady," "Kingdom" and 2000's "Return of Saturn."

Although the players ran breathlessly through the hits "Just a Girl," "Sunday Morning," "Don't Speak," "Ex-Girlfriend," "Underneath It All" and many others, their fast pace never felt rushed. Indeed, bouncing and twirling like brightly attired dervishes, they seemed as excited to perform those oft-played songs as the crowd was to hear them.

Abetted by two backup singers who manned keyboards and horns as needed, No Doubt also successfully dialed down the mood with a mini-acoustic set. Stefani struck a particularly vulnerable note with a subdued "Magic's in the Makeup," which went beyond the concerns of a superstar reconciling her public and private faces to touch a more general questioning of identity.

Moments such as that and the wistful "Simple Kind of Life" emphasized the girl-next-door quality that makes Stefani appealing to so many young women.

Although tough in her yards of studded denim, and icily glamorous with her theatrical makeup and high blond ponytail, underneath it all her lyrics expressed the heartfelt dreams and romantic desires that can be just as hard to realize as any rock-star aspirations.

*

No Doubt

Where: Long Beach Arena, 300 E. Ocean Blvd.

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Price: Sold out

Contact: (562) 436-3661

Also

Where: Arrowhead Pond, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

Price: $35

Contact: (714)704-2500

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