Any concerns that No Doubt won't fit into the hard-rock lineup disappear as soon as the band is announced and the audience erupts for the hometown heroes. Moving onto the stage, Stefani rolls her torso like a belly dancer with a spinal problem; Kanal, with spiked blond hair, skanks around like a cockroach; drummer Adrian Young, shirt off and mohawk up, slaps his own ass; and Dumont, he just looks uncomfortable.
The band leaves the stage feeling good. Rock Steady will be released in two days, and all is well. “It's just such a magical year,” Stefani says. “It's sad, because I know we're going to have a crash landing at some point, because we're just riding so high. Touring to me is becoming harder. The physical part of it is hard, the traveling part is hard, being away from people you love is getting harder and harder.”
Later, backstage, Rossdale arrives in No Doubt's dressing room, slumping around in a hat pulled anonymously over his eyebrows. Stefani, enthroned at the back of the room, spies him and seems unable to focus on the conversation she is having with a friend. Soon, the happy couple leaves arm in arm. Thus begins a pattern that continues in the next week: Every time Rossdale arrives, he and Stefani disappear.
It's not simply that they want to be alone. Stefani says that in six years, they have never been together around a journalist. They are adamant about keeping their relationship private. And despite how clearly in love they are, their time together hasn't been easy. Much of Rock Steady is about how hard it is having a relationship that's not only long-distance but also between two people in different touring rock bands.
Stefani remembers writing a song with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. “The day before we went over there, I was in the park-with Gavin, and I had been keeping a journal,” she says. “And we were so in love, and I wrote that line, ‘You're lovely underneath it all.’ You know, like, ‘After all the shit we've been through, you're a really good person. I really think I might like you.’”
Stefani is a bit obsessive, to put it mildly. “I'm really self-centered,” she admits. “I really am. I'm also pretty lazy. I love to sit around and watch TV, and eat ice cream, not work out and be a slob.”
There seem to be two things that make her world go around: Rossdale and No Doubt. Nothing else much matters. I learn this during dinner with her and the band. She slinks into the restaurant in a gray sweat shirt with a hood pulled over her face. Her shoulders curve so she is practically staring at the floor. As she eats, she only perks up twice: The first time is when Kanal says he's upset that a journalist called him “anal.” “Well, you are anal,” she says to her ex. The second is when her new album is discussed:
The new record is more . . . sexy.
Yeah, the record does have a sexiness and a hipness that we've never had before. The thing about the sexy side, for me, is that I earned it. It wasn't until I felt comfortable wearing high heels, because when you're on heels — dude, you should try it — all of a sudden you're sexy. I finally feel like there's a side to me like, “I'm a woman now,” which is fine.
That's pretty good — you're thirty-two.
Yeah, I never felt really strong growing up. I didn't know where I fit in. All the women around me that I could look at were in bands like L7 or Hole. They were angry, and I didn't really feel like that. And the other ones were these folky girls, so there wasn't really anybody, until I discovered Blondie. She was sexy, and she wasn't ashamed to be rocking out, and to me, that's having it all. Because we all want to be sexy, even guys do. It's in human nature, because we've gotta have babies.
But the way you work, it is all your own.
I think the whole sexy thing, to do it seriously, is just a joke. I mean, have you seen me when I wake up in the morning?
Stefani was raised in a Catholic family, which is what she blames for her worst faults — namely, that she is too judgmental and not open enough. “My brother was an artist since the day he was born,” she says, referring to Eric Stefani, who left No Doubt during the recording of Tragic Kingdom. “He would win all the awards at school. I didn't have to do anything, because I had him. I was always a passive person, a one-on-one person. I always had my one best friend, and I didn't have lots of girlfriends. I never have.”
Outside of the first boy she kissed, Stefani has dated only two people: Kanal and Rossdale. As for her goals in life, starting a family is the only one she hasn't yet fulfilled. In her music, she's already there: “Having a song [‘Don't Speak’] that's going to be there when you're dead is just, I'm sorry, but it's just pretty cool,” she says.
An evening with Stefani: When No Doubt walk the red carpet at the Billboard Awards in Las Vegas, the paparazzi scream not for the band but for “Gwennnn,” who obliges them by opening her fur jacket and sticking out her chest, which is covered by just a bikini top. Later, a fan runs up to Kanal. “Man, I love your band,” he says. “I have to ask you: When you guys first got together, did you just think, ‘Wow, she is hot!’” Kanal doesn't answer.
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