Well, that was super good.
Drawing songs from her 30-year career, California heroine Gwen Stefani performed a show in front of 65,561 people on Tuesday, March 15, making us wonder, why did it take her so long to make her Rodeo debut? Houston?
The pandemic is obviously the main reason for the delay – two years to be exact since his 2020 show was canceled. But Stefani could have easily rocked the NRG Stadium much longer ago, achieving superstar status as a solo artist in 2004 with the seven-time platinum record. Love. Angel. The music. Babe. after selling $33 million worldwide with his ska-influenced alternative rock band, No Doubt.
Stefani has played in Houston many times before, since her early years, paying her dues with her old band on the University of Houston Campus in 1992, mostly ignored by students jostling to and from class.
This time around, she had a captive and much more grateful audience to see the Queen of Pop fashionista who has since topped the charts and sold millions of albums.
It is a remarkable achievement. The bottle-blonde singer, dressed in a gorgeous gold, white and green bedazzled cowgirl outfit with white boots, debuted with the pop radio hit ‘Sweet Escape’, the title track from her 2006 album , triggering the first of many singles throughout the evening.
She was flanked by a group of dancers who had choreographed moves for each song, backed by a four-piece band, including outstanding trombone keyboardist Gabrial McNair.
“Sunday Morning”, from the massively sold 1995 album No Doubt, tragic kingdom, foreshadowed many songs from his time in this band and took us back to when they ruled MTV and radio. “We’ve been waiting for two years, but it’s okay!” said the 52-year-old, still stunning after decades of playing. “I can’t believe it…I’m here at the rodeo in Houston!”
2001’s “Underneath It All” Solid as a rock brought a touch of ska and reggae, complemented by a light ska dance. Stefani has been her own hype wife, keeping everyone in the stadium engaged. “I really love you, Houston! I really love you very much!” she said. And we loved her back.
A relatively deep cut, “Bathwater”, the fourth single from No Doubt’s 2000 album Back to Saturn moved up in the songbook as its dancers performed line-dancing-influenced moves. “I don’t want to disappoint you,” she told Us, alluding to her hubby who has headlined countless times at RodeoHouston.
“I’m married to Blake Shelton and I’m sorry he’s not here right now, but he’s home as a great dad and babysitter!” “It’s My Life” came next, Talk Talk’s 1984 cover song which No Doubt took to No. 10 when it was included in their 2003 greatest hits collection, The Singles, 1992-2003. It was one of the rockiest moments of the night and a great showcase of his tightly-knit band.
“Rich Girl” from the well-represented solo disc, Love. Angel. The music. Babe., made the crowd rise. No Doubt’s funkier, new wave singles “Ex-Girlfriend” and “Hella Good” followed, with everyone jumping up and down at the singer’s command, a fun time.
Return to tragic kingdom, the powerful ’90s ballad “Don’t Speak” drew some of the loudest cheers and had cellphone flashlights in her hands as Stefani soared 20 feet into the air to serenade the crowd. . His voice never sounded better all night.
Known for mixing genres in her solo work, Stefani brought something for everyone with “Wind It Up” by The sweet escape bring the yodel to RodeoHouston alongside Latin flourishes to a marching band beat. “Cool” from Love. Angel. The music. Babe. slowed things down to couple-dancing speed at prom, a dash of romance with slow-burning rock guitar licks.
“Luxurious,” another single from the same album, veered to the soul of the bedroom, a track that wouldn’t be out of place at a Boyz II Men concert. “I’m nostalgic because I’ve been waiting for this for two years,” she exclaimed. “[Back then], I had a life in Anaheim, California. Now I live in Oklahoma and I’m at a rodeo. I feel like we’re a family now!”
“What You Waiting For?”, his timeless debut solo single kicked off and it was straight fire with rampant ass shaking in the aisles, the most danceable song of the night with a punchy 4/4 bass drum groove . Energy now at red level, it was back to the hits of No Doubt, “Hey Baby” by Solid as a rockincluding more ska dancing and a toast by McNair.
tragic kingdom single, “Spiderwebs”, had everyone who grew up in the 90s with a smile on their face. “We were a band for nine years before we got a song on the radio,” Stefani said before the penultimate track. “This song is bigger now than it was then.”
Start tragic kingdom single, “Just a Girl,” had all the ladies of the house up, a feminist anthem for the ages, with the crowd all but drowning out Stefani’s voice.
The #1 Neptunes-produced song “Hollaback Girl” closed out the night, nearly blowing up NRG Stadium. Everyone sang the earworm chorus – no clean version needed – and the applause at the end of the stone-cold 2005 classic might have been among the strongest moments in the history of NRG.
With that, Stefani jumped into the back of a Ford truck, still rocking the crowd until she entered the tunnel. If last week’s Journey show was for Boomers, here’s a performance for late Gen X and early Gen Y, vastly underrepresented at RodeoHouston.
A pleasant surprise was the number of No Doubt hits included in the setlist, a dream come true for anyone who has followed the Orange County band from the start. And while nostalgia played a big part in the overall success of the night’s performance, it was the kind of fan service we were completely on board to see and experience.
Gwen – we’re on a first name basis after this performance – simply crushed her in what’s up for RodeoHouston’s best gig of the season, her neon glowing personality shining from start to finish and her singing voice ringing great overall.
Indeed, that shit was bananas. BANANAS.
“It’s my life”
“Ex-Girlfriend” / “Hella Good” (Vegas version)
“Do not talk”
“Roll It Up”
“What You Wait For”
“Just a Girl”