Gwen Stefani Left No Doubt That She's Back on Her Game at Gexa

Gwen Stefani never slowed down in a two-hour performance in Dallas on Saturday, her first in nine years.
Gwen Stefani never slowed down in a two-hour performance in Dallas on Saturday, her first in nine years.
Mike Brooks

Gwen Stefani
With Eve
Gexa Energy Pavilion, Dallas
Saturday, August 13, 2016

If only everyone could be as lucky as Gwen Stefani. For most, dealing with heartbreak might just lead to drunken Facebook rants or passive-aggressive tweets. But not for Stefani. Instead, she responded with This is What the Truth Feels Like, a No. 1 album full of poignant yet dance-worthy anthems. Saturday night at Gexa Energy Pavilion, it was hard not to share in her joy at having come out the other side.

That happiness, expressed onstage with a high-energy set that stretched to nearly two hours, is due no doubt in large part to her highly public relationship with Blake Shelton. (Nearly half of the songs on the new album credit him without naming him.) Truth is both a redemption tale and a breakup story, chronicling her range of emotions following the cheating scandal between her then-husband, Gavin Rossdale, and the couple’s nanny; her divorce from Rossdale; and her relationship with Shelton.

Shelton walked onstage about three-quarters through the night to sing the duet “Go Ahead and Break My Heart,” and the sickeningly sweet lovebirds couldn’t have looked happier. They sang to each other with the abandon of two people deep in love, to the point that that they didn’t even really acknowledge the audience. Shelton beamed his mega-watt smile at Stefani. It was their world and the audience got to be voyeurs in it for approximately five minutes.

Stefani barely slowed down throughout the course of her nearly two-hour set.
Stefani barely slowed down throughout the course of her nearly two-hour set.
Mike Brooks

The show opened on an entirely different note with “Red Flag” from Stefani’s new album. In keeping with the “red” theme, she took the stage in signature L.A.M.B. style, wearing ripped red tartan plaid pants and a fishnet body stocking underneath a red bustier adorned with flowers. A coordinating sequined bolero jacket topped her upper half and she sported what looked to be a fringed half-kilt on her backside - it might be a new fashion yet to hit mainstream, or it’s just Gwen Stefani — as far as fashion goes she can do what she wants.

“You know how to blow it up… you know how to screw it up,” go one of the lyrics in "Red Flag," and Stefani seemed to really enjoy thrashing about, flailing her arms while singing at the top of her lungs. At one point during the song she looked to the crowd, shook both hands for dramatic effect and repeated, “This is your punishment.” At 46, with the energy of a 16-year-old, a thriving career, a new love of her life and looking as fresh as she did 20 years ago with No Doubt, what better revenge could she ask for?

Stefani took the audience through a generous catalogue of her hits from early No Doubt, to the beginning of her solo career, to a good handful of tracks off her most recent album. Unlike artists who rely on excessive banter, gimmicky dance interludes and costume changes to fill up time, Stefani kept it respectable with three quick costume changes and only a little bit of chatter in between songs, which she used to segue into her next hit.

Utilizing the concept of special guests, Stefani brought out Eve (who opened for her) about halfway through to perform two of their collaborations from around the turn of the century, “Rich Girl” and “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” Eve’s been mostly out of the spotlight, but her rapping was on-point as well. The fact that they co-sang these two songs was all but forgotten, the reminder was a fun trip down memory lane.

Several fans had the chance to join Stefani onstage (and take selfies, of course).
Several fans had the chance to join Stefani onstage (and take selfies, of course).
Mike Brooks

Stefani pointed out signs in the pit that she liked and twice during the set brought audience members on stage to take selfies with her. She good-naturedly chastised them for taking too long when they weren’t at center stage within 10 seconds of her invitation. Her impatience had a purpose: Stefani was on a mission to give the crowd its money’s worth, and she packed nearly 30 songs into two hours — even fatiguing many people in the audience into taking their seats.

The arena erupted into a full-fledged dance party when Stefani jammed “Hollaback Girl” with backup by eight extremely talented dancers. "I'm actually scared to perform this in Texas," she quipped beforehand, referring to the song's use of the word "shit." It was hard to not think that was adorable. That didn't stop Stefani from instructing the crowd to sing along on the, “The shit is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S,” refrain  — as though the crowd needed an invitation.

Stefani may have been at her most heartfelt, though, when she admitted to her misgivings about going on tour. She's a seasoned vet at this point, but it's been seven years since her last tour, and she admitted she was scared to go back on the road. But those fears have been assuaged, and she insisted others could do the same: "I know that you have more in you," Stefani said, encouragingly. If she can bounce back in style, maybe we all can.

She hasn't toured in seven years, but Stefani certainly enjoyed being back.
She hasn't toured in seven years, but Stefani certainly enjoyed being back.
Mike Brooks
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