It has been almost 10 years since Gwen Stefani’s last solo album, “The Sweet Escape” (December 2006). But the woman who bounded on stage to “Wind it Up” at Zepp DiverCity on March 16 exuded just as much energy as she did the last time she performed in Tokyo in 2007.
Dressed in tight, ripped leather and tartan, and flanked by a full band including the horn section of her previous band No Doubt, the start of the show was a perfect nod to her past.
After the lively opening number, which showcased her dancers’ moves as much as the singer’s voice, the band launched straight into another hit, “Rich Girl.” Stefani used this song as well as the balled “Early Winter” to show off her versatile vocals even more. Newer songs “Baby Don’t Lie” and “Start the Fire” fit in smoothly alongside older songs, getting a lively reaction from the crowd.
Stefani’s love for Tokyo — Harajuku and its fashion in particular — is well-documented. Two of her solo albums — “Escape” and 2004’s “Love. Angel. Music. Baby” — were peppered with Japanese pop-culture references, so it seems fitting that she would come back here to help launch her third album, “This Is What the Truth Feels Like.” After a costume change, the band transitioned into a medley, and despite not being on a full tour since 2007, all the people on stage proved to be a tight unit. The show was a full-scale, high-energy production that ran through most of Stefani’s solo material.
The crowd at Zepp DiverCity provided a warm reception for Stefani and her band, to which the 46-year-old was happy to reciprocate, with numerous exclamations of “Are you serious?” and “Is this seriously happening right now?” — filling in for her lack of Japanese.
Personal highlights for me were “Yummy,” “Bubble Pop Electric” and “Crash.” The song “Cool” gave us more heartfelt sentiment from Stefani, even causing the young woman next to me to tear up while singing along.
Near the concert’s end, Stefani showcased a trio of songs from her new album. They were noticeably reflective of the singer’s recent tabloid-fodder relationship drama, particularly her split with ex-husband Gavin Rossdale, with “Used to Love You” delivering the most raw emotion. “Make Me Like You” is a more joyous account of finding new love, while her latest single, “Misery,” is the type of anthem that could possibly provide Stefani with her comeback hit.
For their final two songs, Stefani reached back into her catalogue and pulled out “Hollaback Girl” and “The Sweet Escape.” These songs really got the crowd singing and screaming along as psychedelic remakes of their music videos played on the screen above the stage.
Before leaving, Stefani left her fans with a heartfelt message: “It was a really hard year for me and an incredibly difficult time,” she said, “but with God’s help I’m here right now and I have a record to share with you guys and I’m so excited to share it with you.”