Gwen Stefani’s Just a Girl Vegas Residency

Do you remember what kind of music you were listening to in 4th grade?

I do.

I mostly listened to what was on the radio. Since it was South Florida in the 90s, that mainly consisted of R&B, gangsta rap, Miami booty music, alternative rock, pop rock, and classic rock.

That was around the time when I started to develop musical taste. I just turned 10, and I felt like a big kid finally.

So when I first heard No Doubt on the radio in 1996, I was floored. I’m pretty sure they were one of the first modern rock bands I had heard, up to that point, with a female singer.

I was immediately attracted to their bouncy, fun, ska-infused tunes and Gwen Stefani’s emotionally penetrating vocals. “Tragic Kingdom” was ultimately a breakup album, and every song was a powerful expression of her heartache.

I instantly related to the lyrics and learned as many of them by heart as I could fit into my growing brain.

No Doubt became a favorite band, and I was lucky enough to see them live, a year later, in 1997. I saw them again in 2009 and was even lucky enough to score a photo pass from the newspaper I was working for at the time.

Since then I’ve remained a devoted No Doubt fan and followed Gwen on her solo career as well. Her lyrics still make an impact on me to this day, but none more so than those from the songs on “Tragic Kingdom.”

nodoubttragickingdom

So, when she announced her Just a Girl Las Vegas residency, I was all in.

Now, I’m not a huge Vegas person. I’ve only been there twice. But I could not pass up the opportunity to see an entire show based around Gwen’s music and lyrics, both in No Doubt AND as a solo performer.

I decided to buy tickets a couple of weeks ago, and Justin and I basically took a pretty spontaneous trip to Vegas just to see her perform (and for our anniversary).

The show took place at the Zappo’s Theater of Planet Hollywood, located inside the Miracle Mile mall.

I bought the cheapest tickets I could find online for that date, but honestly, in a 7,000 seat theater, there were no bad seats. However, I was elated when after scanning our tickets, the ticket taker said they were upgrading people’s seats.

At first, I was skeptical and thought it cost money. But it didn’t! I’m not sure why exactly our seats got upgraded because by the time the show got started it looked like a full house, but I’m so glad they did! Our seats were on the stage left side, on the bottom right before the pit.

planethollywoodseats

Before the show even started, I was smiling ear to ear at the show opening music. A mix of ska, punk, and alternative was playing, some of it very familiar. I was feeling pretty excited and nostalgic.

They were selling merch in the lobby, but it was a wee bit more than I wanted to spend on a t-shirt that night, although I did love the one that said, “This Sh#t is Bananas.”

There were also costumes from some of her music videos on display in the lobby, including the blue and white polka dotted dress from “Don’t Speak.” Oh, how I loved that video. So 90’s Gwen with the bindi and everything!

Although the show was supposed to start at 9:00, it didn’t end up starting until 9:30. But, it was well worth the wait.

Gwen opened her show with “Hollaback Girl,” surrounded by an art deco style set, a black and white striped floor, and dancers holding giant bananas. She had so much energy at the get-go it was impossible not to feel completely infatuated by it.

She moved through a ton of songs at a steady pace from her No Doubt days to her solo albums and even to covers of songs like Rhianna’s “Umbrella” (which she declared should have been her song).

She talked to the audience quite a bit and even took the time to take pictures with audience members and sign stuff.

And of course, since it was Vegas, she had a number of costume changes. During these interludes, the curtains closed and a video was played, where she discussed her journey from Anaheim teenager writing songs in her bedroom to major, worldwide superstar.

It was so fun seeing different photos and video footage of her as a kid, teenager, and then singing and performing with No Doubt.

There was even a segment about her obsession with fashion and how she’s always used it to express herself.

Speaking of fashion, the costumes were fabulous‚ÄĒas you might expect.

One of my favorites was actually the first one she wore, which was a custom black and white jacket with all these incredible embellishments.

The entire set up for “Don’t Speak” was also pretty incredible. She wore this long white cape with rose petals sewn onto the bottom and sang on this platform at the front of the catwalk, which was also decorated with roses and greenery.

Red and pink confetti rained down during the song, and I was so happy I had to take deep breaths between singing so I wouldn’t cry.

gwenstefanidontspeak

She played pretty much every song I could have asked to hear, and I had an amazing time singing, dancing, and smiling my face off. Needless to say, it was a night to remember.

Thank you, Gwen, for being a musical role model, fashion inspiration, and all-around adorable person whose Instagram stories bring me joy every day.

Until next time.

‚ô•

Do you plan on seeing Gwen Stefani’s Just a Girl Las Vegas residency or have you already seen it? Leave me a comment below!

Advertisements

Tears For Fears – “Listen”

Sometimes a song just captivates our attention in the moment and catches us off guard. It speaks to us on a deeper level, beyond lyrics and obvious meaning. It’s often how we discover new music and develop an even greater appreciation for a previously loved artist. In this case, it was the latter.

I put on the B Side of my Tears For Fears Songs From The Big Chair LP and just let it play in the background, mainly because I wanted to hear “Head Over Heels” as I surfed the web. But as the last notes of “Head Over Heels” faded away, I was greeted with the sweetly hypnotic synth of “Listen.” Like a lover’s daydream, “Listen” snuck into my heart and made me woozy with adoration. I have listened to this album many times before, all the way through, but it was always just the soundtrack to whatever I was doing, with my attention mostly elsewhere. For whatever reason, today “Listen” made me do just that and I truly paid attention to the song.

“Listen” drifts lazily on and on, lingering on notes like kisses exchanged in secret. It’s a true lover’s song, providing a blanket of blissful sound for those long nights wrapped in an embrace or pining away for a lost love. Many¬†layers of sound harmonize together to create a lullaby-like quality that soothes the soul. There are only two¬†tiny verses that are sung in the first third of the song and their meaning is as mysterious as the melody itself.

Mother Russia badly burned
Your children lick your wounds

Pilgrim father sailed away
Found a brave new world

The rest of the lyrics are sung  in Spanish by a small choir throughout the second half of the song and are difficult to understand, but some people think they hear:

Complea√Īos chica, no hay que preocuparse.
Don’t worry birthday girl.¬†or Birthday girl, it’s not your fault.

Regardless of the meaning, it had me ¬†wondering where this song came from and why it’s not better known. In truth, it reminds me a lot of M83 and other dream pop/shoegaze artists of the modern era. There’s a definite direct influence there that was interesting to discover from such a seemingly straightforward 80’s band like Tears for Fears. I knew they were great songwriters, but “Listen” is on a different level of artistry that was completely unexpected. I feel like I have to go back and re-explore their discography now because surely there are other gems like “Listen” that I have yet to experience.

Listen for yourself below and let “Listen” speak to you too.

Refused Are…Alive!

Refused -

One of my favorite hardcore bands from the 90’s, Refused, is back with a new album entitled¬†Freedom.¬†The Swedes will be releasing their first new album in 17 years on June 30th via Epitaph Records. There is already a special pre-order for the album¬†which includes¬†bundles and¬†exclusives including a beautiful hardcover book of artwork. The exclusive pre-order is SOLD OUT already!!

I just watched the video for the first single, “Elektra,”¬†and was completely blown away. That time signature!!! I’m ecstatic that they’ve decided to continue making amazing, politically relevant tunes that are still hard as hell. Take a listen to “Elektra” below.

Wu-Tang Clan on The Daily Show!!

First of all, can I just give props to Jon Stewart for being the one to get all nine members of Wu-Tang Clan to have their reunion on his show? That has got to be the first time they’ve performed or been seen all together in almost seven years. It really was a historic event in music and that was some lucky audience.

It¬†was no happy accident that they appeared on The Daily Show, however. They’re promoting a¬†new record called¬†A Better Tomorrow, which has been almost three years in the making due to feuding and their solo careers. Set to be released in November of this year, they debuted their first single, “Ron O’Neal” on air. Ron O’Neal was an african-american actor in blaxploitation films like Super Fly. Apparently, he had a stage career as well, appearing in many Shakespeare plays. I’m curious to read the lyrics and see what they have to say about him.

Wu-Tang Clan performing Ron O'Neal on The Daily Show for Reunion

When they performed “Ron O’Neal,” it seemed like they didn’t quite have a handle on the song and where it fit into the rest of their library. Method Man starts things off with his signature smoothness¬†setting the groove. While he’s doing¬†his thing though,¬†the rest of the guys are just¬†sort of standing around bobbing their heads. There’s none of that classic Wu-Tang energy going on that they’re known for. It really¬†isn’t until the middle of the song when RZA takes over and really digs in¬†that the song gets good. Hopefully, the rest of the album is a little more promising.

Luckily for their fans, they ended the show with “Triumph,” which is from one of their first commercial albums. That was back when they were a much more collaborative unit and didn’t all have solo careers inflating their egos. As soon as they started¬†the¬†song, the past fifteen years seemed to melt away and they were The Wu again. It was much more obvious that they were enjoying themselves and loving the comfort of an old song that put them on the map. I want to¬†see more of that when they go on tour again to support this album. Maybe they’ll inspire a whole new generation who will be drawing the W logo on all their school notebooks and folders like me and my friends did. Wu-Tang Forever baby.

The Wu-Tang Clan performs "Triumph" on the Daily Show

Watch the full episode on Comedy Central.

“Alligator Wine” – Jeff Buckley vs. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

While customizing this blog to ready it for publication, I opened up Spotify to give myself a soundtrack to work to. I didn’t have anything particular in mind, in which case my go to music is usually something I’m intimately familiar with already. Seeing as I was reading old blog posts earlier today where I mentioned Jeff Buckley, I figured I’d let him guide me in creating this Frankenstein blog.

Although I don’t own this version, I put on the¬†Grace – Legacy Edition¬†because I was curious about the extra tracks that were included. Seeing as Jeff died so young, and before he could really put out another full album of material, a lot of the bonus or rare tracks from him are covers. One song in particular stuck out to me as it wasn’t typical of his style.¬†The song is “Alligator Wine,” and¬†it can only be described as a¬†deranged creeping piece of blues music, characteristic of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins weirdness and theatricality.

Jeff Buckley’s version sticks relatively close to the original, at least in terms of the basic song structure. My theory is that he¬†was just fooling around in the studio and they decided to record the song just for fun. His vocal exaggeration attempts to mimic¬†Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, but¬†just ends up making him sound like a punk rock boogeyman. I love the “hoooah’s” and “bloooah’s” he makes at the end of a phrase. He even sneaks in a sneeze after the line “It’ll make you cough and sneeze.” The most entertaining part of the song though, is around 2:16 when he sounds like he’s screaming in Chinese. That’s when he just lets loose some crazy gibberish in between finishing the song with one last chorus. It was really fun to hear that side of him. Take a listen to his version below.

Jeff Buckley - Grace Legacy Edition Album Cover
Jeff Buckley – Grace Legacy Edition

Jeff Buckley – Alligator Wine

If you’re not familiar with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, his claim to fame was the song “I Put A Spell On You.” You know the one; it’s on everyone’s Halloween playlist. Well this song is equally spooktacular, but definitely underrated.The beginning of the song is just drums and guitar, like in Jeff Buckley’s version, but at the first chorus, a piano and saxophone come in as well.¬†Screamin’ Jay’s typical macabre depravity is showcased in his¬†lyrics as he describes how to make this so called alligator wine. Around 2:33 he starts to lose his mind and sputters out these half laughs, which ends in an odd cough/laugh hybrid and him questioning¬†“Could we hear that?” Hear what man? You losing your mind? I sure heard it. Listen to the original wackiness below.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins Cow Fingers & Mosquito Pie Album Cover
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Cow Fingers & Mosquito Pie

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Alligator Wine