It's ironic that a reunited No Doubt performed their 1995 breakthrough hit, "Just a Girl," on American Idol" Wednesday night, when the season's only remaining female contestant, Allison Iraheta, could have used a bit of that girl power to avoid exiting the "Idol" stage.
It was the first time the group — which officially kicks off a reunion tour on May 16 with a show in Las Vegas — had ever appeared on the show, though singer Gwen Stefani is no stranger to "Idol." She visited in 2007 to mentor the finalists and was joined by Akon to perform her solo hit "The Sweet Escape."
This time, though, she brought along longtime bandmates bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont and drummer Adrian Young, not to mention a bit of the punky attitude that helped them become pop superstars in the late 1990s. After spending more than five years working alone, Stefani changed gears from the club pop of her two solo efforts to a more rocking mode for the performance, which kicked off with her creeping down the center stage steps in some of her classic ND gear.
Trading the flashy couture of her solo days for basic black boots, black pants, a white tank, neon-green bra and a studded leather belt, Stefani was back in tough girl mode. She postured her way across the stage as Kanal and Dumont pogoed to the song's incessant ska rhythm. Though she sometimes sounded a bit out of breath, Stefani easily slipped back into the herky-jerky vocal cadences of the song.
Punching the air and bouncing around, Stefani nearly wiped out mid-song when she leaped off the main stage and ran toward the judge's table to get closer to the crowd. Once there, flanked by Kanal and Dumont, she dropped down and did five push-ups as the band vamped. She then adlibbed a shout out to her female fans. "Where are my girls at?" she said, hunched over and peering out into the audience, which broke out into a high-pitched squeal and engaged her in some call-and-response to the "I'm just a girl" refrain.
"I'm just a girl at 'American Idol'/ Because that's all that you'll let me be!" she yelled, before leaping off the riser once more and pushing her way through the crowd to get back to the main stage. Energized, but clearly a bit drained, the mother of two hugged host Ryan Seacrest after the song, as flamboyant drummer Young emerged from behind his kit to reveal his black and white striped leggings, a pink tutu and a black lipstick smear across his lips.
Seacrest asked Stefani to explain why the group is touring for the first time in more than five years without an album to promote. "My fault, my fault, my fault," she said. "I had all the babies and all that and then I was home. ... I just said let's just go on tour. I don't want to be home writing. I just want to get out there, see everybody, get inspired and kind of do it backwards." She clarified that the whole point of the tour is to get inspired to write a new album, which is tentatively due in 2010.
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