Since she last toured with her childhood pals in the band No Doubt five years ago, Gwen Stefani has grown from a carefree California cutie to the iconic female pop star who has given birth twice, crafted two highly successful solo albums and started a clothing line.
Performing again with her old group Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center, though, Stefani was back to being “Just a Girl,” as the title of the band’s pre-encore finale declared. For better or worse, the 90-minute performance was just another No Doubt concert. Stefani sang and bounced around the stage with all the youthful energy of her group’s late-’90s/early-’00s heyday. She and her bandmates did not show any hint of adapting the group to reflect their adult lives.
Stefani, 39, even looked like a ultra-buff 25-year-old, with a stomach you could grate cheese on. With help from opening band Paramore — whose orange-haired, lion-voiced frontwoman, Hayley Williams, 20, is a current hero to teen girls — No Doubt played to a young and largely female crowd of just under 10,000 fans. The crowd made for a sharp contrast to the older music fans also swarming downtown St. Paul on Sunday for the final night of classic-rock at Taste of Minnesota.
The fun started with a pair of No Doubt’s most infectious, dance-floor-sparking hits, “Spiderwebs” and “Hella Good.” The latter’s hook, “Let’s just keep on dancing,” sounded more defiant than celebratory eight years since its release, and Stefani lived up to it with her exuberant moves. She and her three male counterparts took the stage in matching white outfits and bleach-blonde hairdos, as if to emphasize they’re a tight unit again.
The tightness could be heard in the music, too, which was augmented with two extra horn/keyboard players. Bassist Tony Kanal and drummer Adrian Young dutifully revived the punky ska/reggae style of their early standard “Excuse Me Mr.” and “Ex-Girlfriend.” Stefani and guitarist Tom Dumont, meanwhile, wrapped their melodies together sweetly in the hit ballads “Simple Kind of Life” and “Don’t Speak.” Kanal greeted the latter song by holding up a lighter, as if poking fun at the fact that it’s about him (he and Stefani used to date; now she’s married to British rock hunk Gavin Rossdale). “We’re having the time of our lives,” Stefani chirped mid-show.
That certainly seemed to be true toward the end, as the band threw in two New Wave-era covers, Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life” and Adam and the Ants’ “Stand & Deliver” — the latter delivered with help from all of Paramore. As “Just a Girl” started up, Stefani fell facedown to the stage and effortlessly tore through a dozen push-ups. Clearly, for her and her bandmates, it didn’t hurt pretending to be young again. Not this time around, anyway.
Youth is still the most impressive thing about Paramore, which sounds like Pat Benatar for kids who are heartbreakers via text messaging. The Tennessee quintet did show a little growth in a couple of new songs from its upcoming album, “Brand New Eyes” (due Sept. 29), but the teenage drama in songs such as “That’s What You Get” and the closer “Decoder” was still greeted with large choruses of singing teenagers.
See No Doubt’s set list at startribune.com/poplife.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658