(Tragic) Kingdom Come Again, Leaving No Doubt Who Rules OC

Kingdom Come Again
. . . And again and again and again, leaving No Doubt who rules Orange County

“WELCOME TO NO DOUBT’S ORANGE COUNTY”
Those words, on a sign just inside the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater grounds, greeted eager attendees to each of No Doubt’s four Irvine shows on July 31, Aug. 1, 2 and 4, essentially the band’s victory lap for a successful return tour that started in May. Other than a brief re-formation during the encores of a couple of Gwen Stefani solo gigs at the same venue in June 2007, it’s the first time No Doubt—frequently referred to by some variation of “the biggest Orange County band of all time”—have played here since 2004.

So, yeah. It was a Big Deal, the kind that merits that many shows (each one sold out the 16,085-capacity venue) and plenty of “I remember them way back when!” reflection. It seems that everyone here has a story about how they saw No Doubt play some tiny, obscure venue in the early 1990s, or has a far-flung familial tie to one of the members. Andrew Youssef, one of our freelance photographers, relayed a story about how he saw them play a warehouse in Orange in 1994, and after the Aug. 4 show, he introduced me to a co-worker at his day job—who happened to be No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal’s cousin. The next day, I stopped in at Denim Blue Vintage Victim in Huntington Beach and was told that one of the employees there is guitarist Tom Dumont’s goddaughter. For all I know, the dude in front of me in line at Chipotle later that day probably took a judo class with drummer Adrian Young when they were in middle school.

That sign was just a bit of hyperbole placed there by promoters, but it’s actually kinda true. Even if they hadn’t been around in a while, even if they’re internationally famous superstars, even if some of them don’t live in the area anymore, No Doubt are permanently woven into the fabric of our culture—and unlike consumerism, conservatism or reality shows, they are something to be proud of.

     

“WE FUCKING LOVE YOU, GWEN!”
From the moment supporting act Katy Perry wrapped up set-closer “I Kissed a Girl” on the Aug. 4 date, fans occupied the next 30 minutes of their lives by screaming out such impassioned declarations. I was lucky enough to land in the pit, packed in with the rest of the band’s most hardcore devotees. One guy had a sign proclaiming he was attending his 16th concert on the tour. Another had come from Canada. Some chattered about how many of the previous Irvine shows they had attended in the past few days.

This was my first time seeing No Doubt in Orange County; I saw them in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2002 and 2004. As much as I’d like to say the Irvine crowd was special, that there was a noticeable difference in energy between the hometown crowd (about 90 percent female, Youssef estimated) and the ones I previously witnessed, I really can’t. Clearly, folks love No Doubt here—but they loved them in Phoenix, too. And I’m sure they loved them in Albuquerque, Cleveland, Kansas City and every other stop on their “Summer Tour 2009.” (Not a “reunion” tour, mind you. They never broke up, just took time off.) Even Perry (from Santa Barbara) seemed starstruck. “I met Gwen Stefani backstage,” she said during her set. “I can safely say that I want to be like her when I grow up.”

No Doubt are a lovable band, bursting with fun, upbeat songs. Get a band that big to play in front of that many people, playing that many huge hits, and you’re going to generate excitement.

And man, people were excited. One of the loudest crowds I’ve been around in a while. And knowing they were playing their hometown—in front of people who probably all had some Byzantine connection to them—did make it seem like an even Bigger Deal.

Stefani worked “Orange County” into lyrics (“Orange County is so rock steady”), called us “Orange County girls” and “Orange County boys,” and generally yelled “Orange County!” a lot, so there was no mistaking where the band were from or where this concert was happening. While introducing her associates during an extended “Different People” instrumental break, Stefani delineated the local ties of each member—she and Kanal from Anaheim, Dumont from Irvine, and Young from Cypress. She pointed out Kanal’s time at Anaheim High School and Dumont’s stint “flipping burgers” at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (then known as the less blatantly corporate Irvine Meadows). They’re not hiding from their pasts—not that they could if they wanted to.

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