LIVE REVIEW: Gwen Stefani – Zappos Theater
A Las Vegas residency is always an exciting time in an artists career because it’s a celebration of their music, their legacy as well as brings fans from all over the world to unite even if it’s just for one night. It’s also an excuse for the artist to indulge in an extravagant production and get a little glitzy, over-the-top and visually re-imagine their discography. Gwen Stefani is the next pop diva to take over the strip with her brand new residency ‘Just A Girl’ which sees her celebrating her 26 years in the industry. From the years where she was the front woman for No Doubt to her three solo albums and her well deserved fashion icon status there is nothing that she misses out in this slick pop affair. From the moment the lights dim you are instantly reminded you are at a Vegas show with the white curtain raising to reveal a beautiful black and white lined stage with a massive staircase. Her troupe of dancers are dressed accordingly with big feathers and deliver a burlesque inspired number before they make their way to the top of the staircase as Gwen appears at the top for the opening number ‘Hollaback Girl’ with giant bananas hanging from the roof. She doesn’t mess around by giving the crowd one of her biggest hits and instantly sets the party mode with the whole packed theater on their feet singing every word back to her. “Vegas, you’re so loud tonight. I want my ears to bleed!” she exclaims before going straight into No Doubt fan favourites ‘Bathwater’ and ‘It’s My Life’ as well as the under-appreciated solo single ‘Baby Don’t Lie’.
The songstress is only one weekend into her residency so she was noticeably nervous but quickly got comfortable as she strutted her way across the stage candidly screaming “I hate lairs, I always have”. She disappeared from the stage while a video interlude reflected on the origins of her career and then the curtain raised again to reveal a neon outline of a house as she ran on stage to the opening ska riff of ‘Spiderwebs’. The crowd in the pitt were ecstatically screaming every lyric and jumping up and down and she didn’t want them to stop. She kept on delivering all of the No Doubt hits with ‘Sunday Morning’. ‘Underneath It All’, ‘Ex-Girlfriend’ and ‘Hella Good’ following as well as a cover of Blondie’s ‘The Tide Is High’. She admitted that some songs are hard to sing because they are so painful to her but she was committed to giving her all to the crowd and she didn’t disappoint. Leaving the stage again for another costume change the next interlude looked at her branching out to solo music and fashion. Her dancers strutted some “Kawaii” fashion down the catwalk to ‘Harajuku Girls’ before she reappeared on a throne inside a cake for ‘Wind It Up” and “Rich Girl”. Slowing things down momentarily she gave a sweet performance of ‘Cool’ which she admitted embodies the whole reason she did the residency. ‘Luxurious’ saw her getting a little passionate before a cover of Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella” and a fiery performance of ‘What You Waiting For?’ saw her running around and hyping the crowd up again. She left the stage for another costume change while the next interlude reflected on the pain and heartbreak she went through before reappearing in a beautiful white dress covered in roses for ‘Simple Kind Of Life’. The crowd were in awe of her powerful, emotional and controlled vocal delivery as she then continued with the hyper-emotional ‘Used To Love You’ and the reflective ‘Misery’. She walked down to the end of the catwalk to a platform which was covered in roses and she was raised in the air as she belted out ‘Don’t Speak’. One final costume change saw her channeling Jessie from Toy Story in a cowgirl inspired outfit. This was the only questionable fashion decision of the night but some how she pulled it off with a cheesy but fun rendition of ‘Make Me Like You’ and ‘Hey Baby’. She thanked the crowd one final time for coming along and spending their Friday night with her before showering them in confetti as she ran around for the final songs ‘Just A Girl’ and ‘Sweet Escape’.
When you do a residency the setlist is always important because everyone wants to hear the hits and reminisce on memories. However one fun thing about residencies is hearing artists perform fan favourites that they haven’t played in years and deep cuts that some may have forgot about. And sadly Gwen didn’t do any of those. I was hoping she would throw in ‘Bubble Pop Electric’, ‘Crash’ or ‘Yummy’ as their playful delivery would fit perfectly into the Vegas setting however she was too focused on delivering No Doubt songs on top of her solo material. With 11 No Doubt songs and 2 covers in a 25 song set she probably could’ve cut a couple to make room for some more solo material because it did lack a solo presence. However she made up for it with an extravagant and playful production that did pay homage to all sides of her long career. She was very humble and grateful throughout the whole show as well as her usual sassy and candid self which made the intimate affair feel even more intimate. Her dancers added a different layer to some of the songs while her band were flawless in their delivery. Gwen Stefani is a born performer and she proved why she’s a household name with this impressive and nostalgic show.