“I got a question: are there any girls here?” About a third of the way into No Doubt‘s 80-minute set at the Electric Ballroom, in Phoenix, mascara was running down singer Gwen Stefani’s face and her bare belly sheened with sweat. The all-ages audience freaked as guitarist Tom Dumont lazed into the lead riff of the band’s first hit, “Just a Girl.” After striking a pose center stage, with a blue spotlight glinting off the kumkum-style beauty mark on her forehead, Stefani followed her question with, “This one’s for the chicks.” Then she breathlessly unspooled the song’s opening lines, building to an eruptive, shout-along chorus that had a thousand kids on summer break pogo-ing as one.
Stefani carried her tough-cookie act through the rest of the show – stalking the stage like a gangsta rapper, crouching over her mike like a hard-core punk and occasionally throwing a double karate kick a la Van Halen’s David Lee Roth. At one point, some boys in the mosh pit grasped for the zippers of her parachute pants, but Stefani remained deliberately, dramatically just out of reach. Meanwhile, the band cranked out tight, horn-driven, ska-influenced songs that were highlighted by Dumont’s heavy-metal fireworks. During the show-stopping “Spiderwebs,” which slides a classic reggae beat into a deep, metallic groove, two young men scaled the stage barricade and ran toward Stefani, who in turn ran for the wings. “Hey,” she cooed after the two had been harshly dealt with, “I’m just a girl.”
This story appeared in the September 5th, 1996 issue of Rolling Stone.