Nothing like your first concert experience. Mine was the Rolling Stones. For my daughter, Ava, I wanted the same mind-blowingness and Gwen Stefani delivered. I’m feeling Hella Good about it. In fact, when I cracked open my laptop at my co-working space this morning and Gwen belted out Misery right where she left off on my YouTube stream yesterday, I didn’t scramble to mute it.
It’s okay that Ava’s next concert-going experience will be different and maybe even better. She only knew about one-third of Gwen’s songs because I only just got in on tickets a few days prior to the concert. We listened to her new stuff off of #ThisIsWhatTheTruthFeelsLike, but how could there possibly be enough time over three busy days to impart all of the Stefani magic upon her? And I realize, it could be more fun with friends than your mom with an artist you’re currently all gaga over.
That aside, it was more about getting to experience that excitement for the first time with her. We did our hair and make-up (applied some false eyelashes in the Target parking lot en route) and chose our attire carefully — denim and black — always a wise choice. Other words of wisdom included you must wear a tank for a quick new concert t wardrobe swap (pictured here, I’m wearing her shirt as a scarf :); you must wear flats because despite having assigned seats, you will be on your feet the entire time (which I did not heed due to my must wear camo wedges); and go big on make-up, casual on clothes so you look like you don’t care too much.
We arrived at 6:20 to the Xcel to survey the hazy scene and hear opening act, Eve (@therealeve). Always loved that Gwen back to No Doubt days had a ska/ hip-hop vibe to her music and it makes so much sense that artistry continues to inform and weave through her versatile vibe. From Eve’s portion I say holla to the flag corp girls! I leaned over to share with Ava that our militant flag corp routines from junior highschool looked nothing like that and could have used a booty-shaking infusion. Response: eye-rolling.
In anticipation of Gwen, we snapped some photos, surveyed the scene which include a mom and her five-year-old in front of us. We did that t-shirt swap I had hinted about earlier in the day after she got over disbelief that I allowed a $40 t-shirt purchase without batting an eye. Later I explained how amazingly cool it felt to come back to my small town Jackson, MN, after a Tuesday night seeing The Stones in the cities. I was unapologetically exhausted (from 3:00a.m. arrival home), but my t-shirt with Jagger’s tongue spoke volumes of coolness for me. Ava’s Gwen t of choice — the one with photo booth shots and a list of 26 cities on her tour — could bring the same transcendence to her.
We were ready. In the first of four outfits, Gwen opted for tartan, black boots and yodeling with Wind It Up, a ska meets Sound of Music loveliness, lilt and lyrical genius. Wardrobe change two featured a bodysuit with ornate details that might possibly have included a necklace of ostrich features and denim low-rise jeans with lots of zippers. I know we’re Cool. Then she went army green militant in jeans with a glittery brilliant green top in contrast. Whatcha Waiting For? She ended with short black shorts, a black and white half scarf/half skirt and white feathered top. She closed on more serene notes with This Is What The Truth Feels Like and Sweet Escape.
Amidst all of that fashion, style and lyrical variety, Blake Shelton came out for Go Ahead and Break My Heart. And because the audience knows this love story intimately, everyone seemed to get swept up in this number. Even Ava turned to me, like really? could it be? when Gwen hinted that “my favorite person in the whole world is here.” Admittedly, my heart did a few backflips, but I would never say that Blake (and Eve) were the stars of the show as the Strib review noted. C’mon, Jon! We want her to come hollaback : ) (check out PiPress review too, which is more favorable)
Yes, on one more Strib review follow-up note, the Stefani experience is larger than her music because she is so much larger than that. As a mom of three who I feel like I grew up with (we’re only two years apart), a fashionista (L.A.M.B. and Harajuku Lovers), her wide open love life and all its drama, and her story about making this album for her, I feel like all of those things only make her stronger, more relevant.
And one final note, the two times I’ve seen Gwen in concert (Nov 2002 and Aug 2016), I was sober. The first time, I was three months pregnant with Ava and this time, completely by choice to enjoy the eve with my daughter. In 2002, I recall being awed by the number of push-ups Gwen did on stage; in 2016, I’m awed by how amazing she looks and sounds and that she’s even better. She seems truly happy just being a girl in the world.
— Cheers, Gwen and come back to Minnesota next time ’round!