By Olivia Isenhart
It was a richly varied group that flooded the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater last night (July 21) in New York, soaking up the salty breeze as the waves beat against the edge of the stage. You could spot just about every type of music lover (lifelong Harajuku Girls included) making their way in with a spring in their step, the universal coolness of Gwen Stefani visibly transcending social circle and generation.
Thus, her longtime collaborator and opener, Eve, had a lot of faces to please as the evening began. But kicking off with a retro, color guard flag feature led by her four talented dancers, she had their attention from the second she strutted up. The Philly-born rapper, who had no trouble tearing up the verses and warming up the crowd, had that fun-to-watch attitude that made for some effortless banter with her DJ. “I just don’t think you got what Jones Beach needs,” he challenged her playfully. “I think I got what everybody needs,” Eve snapped back in style.
There was just one more thing they needed: the goddess that is Gwen Stefani. And they were soon rewarded as she joined them on the Jones Beach stage, surrounded on three sides by water. For many, this would surely be the highlight of their summer. But what they probably hadn’t realized was how much she needed them too. “I feel your energy every single day that I live,” Stefani said sincerely, her bright eyes breaking down barriers and closing any distance between them. And soon, to everyone’s surprise, she was literally closing that distance too.
“You need to get up here right now!” she said to one girl in the front of the general admission pit, whose “Take a Selfie with Me” poster landed her a spot on the stage with the star. Between early-evening treats like “Wind It Up,” “Obsessed” and “Cool,” Stefani was still hard at work, taking careful inventory of the handmade signs they were waving in the air. “You came from Europe?” she asked another fan incredulously. “I’m coming to you,” she said, jumping right over her security guards to climb down and give them a hug.
Her other onstage guest, of course, was Eve. The duo played Eve’s “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” and Stefani’s “Rich Girl.”
Stefani, queen of the slicked-back ponytail and just about everything else, looked stunning from every angle as her muscles carried her from one energetic dance move to the next. But Gwen Stefani’s most striking feature last night was the fact that she really was “Just A Girl” – down-to-earth, wonderfully human, and truly in awe that people would come out, after all these years, to see her sing. It was only fitting she would sneak that No Doubt song into her setlist, as well as a few other hits, “Underneath It All,” “Hella Good,” and “Don’t Speak,” as well as their cover of Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life.” Backed by her incredible band, who slammed her sound with drums, trumpet, and even the theremin, Stefani cooked up a wild and tight-knit party on the shore.
And everyone became a part of the performance. As Stefani thrust her mic out to the thousands, they happily supplied the rapid “na na na na na”s of “Rich Girl,” the “B-A-N-A-N-A-S” of “Hollaback Girl,” and of course, the unforgettable “woo-ooh”s and “yee-oooh”s of “The Sweet Escape.” But there was an even smaller moment that tied them all together. As the night was coming to a close, the cameras linked to the big screens happened catch a perfect closeup of Stefani’s face, right as she gazed out at everyone with genuine adoration. It was that split-second smile that got the biggest scream, because it’s not just Gwen Stefani’s songs that they love; they love Gwen herself. And last night, she returned that love.