Review: Gwen Stefani brings Truth, Blake Shelton to DTE
Gwen Stefani said it would be a special night at DTE Energy Music Theatre, and she made good on her promise by bringing out her beau, Blake Shelton, as a surprise guest to join her midway through her concert on Tuesday.
Shelton hit the stage and joined Stefani to sing “Go Ahead and Break My Heart,” the pair’s duet from Shelton’s latest album, “If I’m Honest,” about an hour into the show. As the crowd lit up, the two gently serenaded each other like they were all alone in the venue, maybe even getting a little lost in each other’s eyes during the midtempo country love song. At its close, Stefani threw her arms around Shelton and knocked him a kiss on the cheek, as he dipped backstage and ceded the show back to her.
Even with Shelton’s cameo, Stefani was always in charge on Tuesday, powering through a 26-song, 110-minute concert that touched on her entire career, from her solo hits to her material with No Doubt. Through those songs the 46-year-old told the story of her life, growing up from punk rocker and ska scenester to pop princess and hip-hop cheerleader. Meanwhile the material from her latest album, March’s “This Is What the Truth Feels Like,” very openly dealt with the breakup of her 13-year marriage to Bush singer Gavin Rossdale and her new relationship with Shelton.
Stefani, sporting the bare midriff she made her trademark in the ’90s, opened with “Red Flag,” the most brash, attitude-laden song on “Truth.” She was backed by a four person band – which included longtime No Doubt trumpet player Stephen Bradley, beefing up the similarities to her former band – and a team of dancers, who filled in drumline parts on the cacophonous “Wind It Up.” As the show unfurled, “Cool” played like an ’80s prom theme, “Make Me Like You” pulsated with a pounding drumbeat and “Underneath it All” introduced the first of five No Doubt songs in the set.
Her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail with the ends dyed black, Stefani whipped around the stage and blazed through several outfit changes while emoting both in song and during between-song banter with the playfully broad theatrics of a vaudeville actress. She spoke about her connection to Detroit – her father grew up on 8 Mile – and aimed to build a rapport with the audience, a healthy but less than capacity crowd of mostly thirty and fortysomethings.
While some of the “Truth” tracks came off as clunkers – “Where Would I Be,” “Rare” and “Asking 4 It” all fell flat – the hits made up for the dull moments. “What You Waiting For?” thumped with new urgency, “Naughty” was a slinky burlesque number and “It’s My Life,” a Talk Talk cover that No Doubt made their own over the years, has become a signature Stefani moment. Meanwhile, “Hollaback Girl” retained its pep rally stomp, “Don’t Speak” became a big ballad singalong and “Just a Girl,” No Doubt’s 1995 breakthrough, remains a landmark girl power anthem. Closer “The Sweet Escape,” from her 2006 album of the same name, is one of Stefani’s most shining, pure-pop moments.
Opening act Eve joined Stefani on stage to perform their two hits, “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” and “Rich Girl,” and both fared better than Eve’s subpar opening set. The evening’s richest moments were all Stefani, though, like when she nearly paused “Used to Love You” to say, “You know I was the best thing that ever happened to you, well now look at what you lost.” Stefani is still getting some things off her chest, and her willingness to open herself up is why it’s so easy for fans to connect with her. “I’m feeling it!” she beamed near the end of the night, during “Truth.” She wasn’t the only one.