Jones Beach Theater
Saturday, June 27
“I always thought I’d be a mom” is not the most obvious applause line at a rock concert. But when Gwen Stefani cooed just that in the middle of the conflicted 2000 power ballad “Simple Kind of Life,” the thousands of girls– teens with teens, teens with moms, twentysomethings without moms– that filled up the Jones Beach Theater on Saturday roared in approval. Much of the gut acknowledgment was thanks to simple tabloid recognition–people know Stefani has delivered a couple kids since “Simple Kind of Life.” But her life doesn’t seem to be less complicated. After becoming a bare-midriffed tomboy-feminist icon with mainstream pleas like “Just a Girl,” Gwen got the husband and the family while becoming even more famous and touring the earth as a solo artist over the last five years or so. She had it up to here, then she went ahead and did something about it.
No “here’s a new one!” or “this one is for the real fans!” bullshit here. For their first tour in five years, the onetime California ska brats opted for a nearly song-for-song knockdown of their 2003 singles collection. Everyone who had a KROQ preset in the ’90s knows these songs because there was no choice. Back then, seeing No Doubt live seemed redundant to a teenage me who was never quite uncool enough to think ska was actually cool. A decade on, “Ex-Girlfriend” and then “Bathwater” and then “Sunday Morning” makes me wonder.
But, then again, the Bosstones are more likely to be scalping outside Jones Beach than selling it out now. Reel Big Fish and Fishbone deserve their lot, too. Because while No Doubt broke out as much black and white checker prints as possible with their stage design and outfits at the show, the band’s endurance has more to do with skewing those two tones rather than blindly following their monochromatic structure. Gwen changed into a b&w one-piece designed to glitter and dazzle about halfway; her no pants-ed drummer stretched some checkered leggings over his knees. The songs that sounded freshest brought the groove forward– stuff like “Hey Baby,” “Underneath It All,” and the “Billie Jean”-snipping “Hella Good” (dedicated to Michael), off the dancehall-infused 2001 LP Rock Steady.
Making the show go, stop, turn around, and jet was Gwen, who ran laps, got down for push ups, and invited an “adorable” male fan onstage for a picture. Her hair remained tied up in jutting lumps throughout, but the glamazonian solo Gwen could often be seen swooshing her blondness on the backdrop’s big screen. Cute, strident, tough, vulnerable–a self-made superwoman taking pride in her past.
Which leads us to 20-year-old Hayley Williams, leader of pop-punk band Paramore, who is trying to figure out how to grow up with her high school fans without alienating them. If Stefani is the cool mom, Williams is the cool best friend to the many young ladies in attendance who had the opening band’s songs memorized. Currently getting ready to release their third album this fall, Paramore have done nearly everything right thus far. They’ve made a batch of crunchy songs heartfelt enough to capture teen emotion without pimping it while propping up Williams as a significant Next. Their set only upheld this seemingly predestined status, and the Stefani seal of approval felt both savvy and apropos.
Thankfully, Williams isn’t worried about mom-dom just yet– she’s still trying to be a nice girl while dealing with jackass guys. Paramore have been dismissed as follow-the-leader emo by people too lazy to listen, so maybe lyrics like, “Don’t wanna hear your sad songs/ I don’t want to feel your pain,” on seething new single “Ignorance” will help everyone else figure out what sharp teen girls already know. And future greatest hit “Where the Lines Overlap” certainly sounded like an immense mainstream move waiting to happen–according to this shameless fan, it could very well be their “The Middle.” “No one is as lucky as us/ We’re not at the end but we already won,” beamed Williams on the song. Girls just wanna have everything.