What an amazing time

Gwen Stefani gig ticketOn the approach to Wembley there were a gaggle of vendors selling glowing rabbit ears and furry wands. We speculated whether this was where Gwen Stefani bought the wardrobe for her tour. They probably sell the same merchandise for most gigs here, but there are few other artists that I could imagine actually wearing such cheap and cheesy accessories.

Of course she didn’t, at least until about two thirds of the way through the set when she launched herself into the audience, alternately running around and standing in the crowd to sing a verse. At one point she borrowed some rabbit ears from a fan. Very fetching.

Okay, so I’ve now written two paragraphs about the gig and I’ve not said a word about the music. I think that’s a function of the kind of music she’s performing these days. At one end of the spectrum you have people like Madonna who do a show. This isn’t a gig in the traditional sense of the word. It’s tightly choreographed, with dancing that is tiring to watch much less perform and audience involvement limited to dancing and singing along. At the other end you have your standard four-piece bouncing around the stage; it’s all about presence, music and, maybe, a little banter. It’s a positive feedback loop.

Stefani tries to straddle the two worlds. Her dancers are energetic and well synchronised (but not quite up to the standards of Madonna’s “Confessions” tour), while she generally struts around them but not joining in. There are frequent dress changes, ranging from track suit pants to red, sparkly hot-pants. Every two or three songs she stops the music and switches into “banter mode.” We need to be louder than Paris. She’s nervous because her father-in-law is in the audience. This song was co-written by a member of Keane.

For me it didn’t quite work. The switch from the tunes to the “ad libs” felt forced, scripted in some places, random in others. You expect exhortations to sing along, but normally on the up-tempo tracks rather than ballads.

But that’s not to say that the gig as a whole failed. At the moment there are few other people making such fun, bright and energetic pop music, and even fewer with the quirky, playful nature of Stefani. “The Sweet Escape” tour reflects these qualities from beginning to end, the whole “who’s that girl” bit when the lights go down, in the choice of songs, the projected videos, the stage set and everyone performance.

In summary: well worth seeing.