OAHU, Hawaii -- Less than a mile from the Richardson field site of the
recent Nomad Festival lies Pearl Harbor, a place of unparalleled infamy in U.S.
And history -- if masked in a less significant yet clearly more constructive guise -
- was made again Saturday evening when modern-day ska masters No Doubt
exploded onto the stage at Nomad joined by their highly influential musical
heroes in Madness.
"The only reason that this band got together is because of Madness," No
Doubt's energetic frontwoman Gwen Stefani told the crowd gathered at
Richardson field. "This is a historic event."
If not so historic for its impact on society, the show was certainly something that
would forever be filed away in the memory banks of most of the 3,500 gathered,
not to mention the bands themselves. At one point in the show, which featured
the return of the late '70s/early '80s ska-pop pioneers in Madness, the crowd
was literally transformed into a sea of swirling mosh pits and pumping fists as
Girl" (RealAudio excerpt).
"Oh my God, we're playing with Madness," Stefani exclaimed in between stage
leaps and her trademark struts. "This is so weird!"
Weird or not, the concert gave the lucky Hawaiian audience a taste of the
dance-heavy rock sound that has paved the way for many current ska acts while
offering fans a glimpse of the future of No Doubt. The ska-pop rockers jammed
through forthcoming tunes such as "New" -- a love song that featured a
throbbing muted guitar that drew as much from heavy metal as from ska -- while
experimenting with a few covers.
Fans flocked to the festival to catch performances from the headliners as well as
from the sounds of contemporary swingsters Cherry Poppin' Daddies and ska-
punkers the Vandals. The former electrified the crowd with their unique brand
of endorphin-charged big-band sounds on songs such as "So Long Toots" and
their hit, "Zoot Suit," the eight-man group charging through the blistering set
dressed in business suits and sunglasses. The Vandals' set included the songs
"Ladykiller" and "Oi to the World" and inspired some of the most enthusiastic
crowd-surfing of the day.
But the chart-topping No Doubt and their musical forefathers, Madness, were
clearly the draws of the event. After a 15-year hiatus, Madness returned to the
stage with their original lineup to play the last show of their seven-date West
Coast tour. The influential band, known for its vaudevillian sound and slapstick
songwriting, returned to a music scene that's in the midst of a resurgence of ska
Singer Graham "Suggs" McPherson, wearing a derby and pooka-shell
necklace, remained relatively stationary through the performance, preferring to
use his arms to inspire the crowd. At times, he seemed like a barker at a
carnival, urging the crowd to join him and the band in their musical circus.
While the crowd welcomed the ska veterans back to the stage, they responded
particularly enthusiastically to renditions of the band's '80s hits "Welcome to the
House of Fun" and "Our House." Fans screamed and skanked in place as if
dancing in a fire.
But it wasn't until No Doubt walked onto the flower-bedecked stage that the
crowd went into an absolute frenzy. "We're going to play this concert and then
go record a new album, OK?" Stefani yelled. The band played "Get on the Ball"
from their first album, along with the hits from last year's smash-selling Tragic
Kingdom LP: "Don't Speak", "Spider Web" and "Sunday Morning."
No Doubt's performance reached far and wide that night. It included songs from
the upcoming album, featuring some new-wave-inspired keyboard work and
Stefani's characteristically crackling yet sultry vocals. The tunes, while
continuing, it seems, to push ska further into the new millennium, also paid
tribute at times to the past.
A sound that fit perfectly into this nostalgic moment.
Though praising Madness, the band also paid tribute to another late '70s group,
playing a verse from second-wave ska pioneers the Specials' "A Message to
After leaving the stage for a short break before the encore, No Doubt returned to
run through an acoustic rendition of "Hey You" and then invited the members of
all of the day's bands to come onstage for a jam as the sun set over Richardson
And for those gathered near the site of Pearl Harbor that night, history was
made through music rather than war.