“We are absolutely in the future right now”: Underneath It All, No Doubt Are Still Hella Good

No Doubt's standout performance during weekend two of Coachella 2024 shows that, 30+ years later, the band's chemistry is still very much intact.
No Doubt's standout performance during weekend two of Coachella 2024 shows that, 30+ years later, the band's chemistry is still very much intact.
No Doubt’s standout performance during weekend two of Coachella 2024 shows that, 30+ years later, the band’s chemistry is still very much intact.
“Hey Baby” – No Doubt (Live at Coachella 2024)

Nearly ten years after their last performance, and even longer since their last album, the band’s chemistry is all love and ska.

No Doubt’s cover of “It’s My Life” is the first song I ever loved.

The track was a staple of my dad’s eclectic road trip playlist, sandwiched between Lynn Anderson’s “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” and Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life.” I’d count down the minutes on the mid-Atlantic corridor of I-95, waiting impatiently to hear the first few beats of Adrian Young on the drums, and to feel Gwen Stefani’s airy breaths envelope me.

With No Doubt as the soundtrack to my life, I was a heroine in a James Bond film, somewhere on the French Riviera — not an awkward six year old in the backseat of a minivan, somewhere between Virginia and New Jersey. Favorite songs are even more precious when you hear them sparingly, and I have managed to keep “It’s My Life” in the running for the past two decades. The track remains tucked away in my back pocket for a rainy day (or a sunny day, when I have access to a Bluetooth speaker). A No Doubt reunion at Coachella felt like the perfect opportunity to reach into my pocket and pay my respects to the band that built the foundation for my love of music.

No Doubt @ Coachella 2024
No Doubt @ Coachella 2024

Optimists and non-influencers will tell you that weekend two is the better Coachella experience — less scene-y and more music-oriented than the madness that descends on Indio for weekend one. Gwen Stefani echoes that sentiment as she saunters to the front of Coachella’s main stage after opening the band’s set with an electric rendition of “Hella Good.”

“Weekend one, well they’re kind of…,” she pauses to twirl her finger to the side of her head to indicate “crazy.” She continues, “the second weekend, you’re the people who really love the music.”

Supercuts of band footage from the 1990s flash across the big screen, as the now middle-aged members dance in front of giant versions of their teenage selves. It doesn’t feel forced or sad — it lends an element of nostalgia and celebrates the fact that this is a reunion tour — Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal, Adrian Young, and Tom Dumant may be in their 50s now, but they still got it!

Gwen Stefani wears a matching plaid jacket and school-girl skirt with a ponytail sectioned into two perky pieces.

It’s a nod to the era that once defined No Doubt, and the punk-rock outfits that made her a fashion icon (RIP to L.A.M.B.). As the band launches into “Sunday Morning,” Stefani bounces around to the opening guitar riffs, play-pouting as she sings, “Sappy pathetic little me, that was the girl I used to be.” The camera pans to Adrian Young, who rocks a “Death to the Pixies” t-shirt and bright red devil horns fashioned from his remaining hair. He plays the drums like he’s a 17 year old kid whose future depends on it. Tony Dumont plucks his guitar strings as his ex sings next to him, “I kinda always knew I’d end up your ex-girlfriend.”

What could have resembled a messy high school reunion is completely drama free. I would’ve welcomed Gwen Stefani venturing outside of the No Doubt catalog to play her hit single, “Cool” (maybe paraphrased to something like, “circles and triangles and now we’re playing Coachella together”), but she didn’t have to. Nearly ten years after their last performance, and even longer since their last album, the band’s chemistry is all love and ska.

a fan holds up the message "No Doubt Forever" during the band's Coachella performance
a fan holds up the message “No Doubt Forever” during the band’s Coachella 2024 performance

When the opening chords to “It’s My Life” resound throughout the warm desert air, the crowd goes wild – pretty impressive considering the average age of Coachella attendees is 25. Gwen Stefani’s voice is less feathery and more full bodied as she sings the iconic opening lines:

“It’s funny how I find myself
In love with you”

I’ve learned to erase my expectations when hearing my favorite songs live. Expecting the unexpected (and unproduced) ensures appreciation of live performances for what they are – a work of art entirely separate from the recorded track. Stefani’s incredible vocal range is on full display as she powers through the lyrics that the crowd knows and loves, “Oh it’s my life / Don’t you forget.” 21 years since No Doubt’s original release of the cover, the band delivers a mature version that is just as good.

After “Different People” calms the crowd, the band riles things up with the fan favorite and easy-to-sing-along-to track, “Hey Baby,” before performing “Excuse Me Mr.,” live for the first time since 2015. Lesser known tracks seem to perform just as well as those that permeate America’s collective music conscious, with “Bathwater,” “New,” (both Return Of Saturn) and “End It On This” (Tragic Kingdom) eliciting just as many shrieks as “Underneath It All.”

A cover of The Skatalites’ “Guns of Navarone” turns the spotlight on Tony, Adrian, and Tom, who revel in the glow as they share their ska roots with a crowd that is (for the most part) hearing about Jamaica’s second-most-famous band for the first time.

No Doubt carton at Coachella 2024
No Doubt carton at Coachella 2024

No Doubt has been around for over 30 years, and its members are now solidly middle aged.

I didn’t want to waste precious words on lengthy comparisons of the band’s 2024 performance to the stunts they pulled in their heyday. No Doubt does not sound or perform exactly like they did in 1992. But Gwen Stefani, Adrian Young, Tony Kanal, and Tom Dumont have aged gracefully alongside their music. With Stefani’s encouragement, 21 and 55 year old fans alike jump up and down amidst a crowd packed like a can of sardines.

As the band begins their final set of songs — “Just A Girl,” “Don’t Speak,” and “Spiderwebs” — I watch as the college-aged girls beside me sing along, never missing a beat or botching a verse. The boy behind them, who doesn’t sing along but sways with the melody as Stefani croons, “Don’t tell me ‘cause it hurts,” looks like he just discovered his new favorite song.

32 years after the release of No Doubt’s eponymous album, Gwen Stefani’s Coachella performance shows that, underneath it all, she’s more than just a girl — she, and the rest of No Doubt, are a force of nature.

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“Just a Girl” – No Doubt (Live at Coachella 2024)

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No Doubt carton at Coachella 2024

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