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No Doubt, Lit, Black Eyed Peas

Return of Saturn Tour

By Eric J. Cholankeril and

Naveen Sunkavally

Staff Reporters

Spotlight center stage, cue Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathrustra” (a.k.a. the monkey theme from 2001: A Space Odessey). Enter No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, bandanna-clad, who assumes the position of Daniel-son’s crane kick from The Karate Kid. Kanal attempts to keep a straight face, but the crowd goes wild, and he lets out a grin.

No Doubt, the ska/pop band from California’s Orange County, is back on tour this summer promoting Return of Saturn, their latest release since they broke onto the charts with Tragic Kingdom in 1995. Backed up by SoCal rockers Lit (also from Orange County) and the Los Angeles-based alternative hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas, the tour stopped by June 22 at the FleetBoston Pavilion.

The biggest surprise of the night was the opening act, Black Eyed Peas. The trio of high energy MCs,,, and Taboo, backed by a four-piece band and a female backup singer, provided a refreshing mix of rap, soul, and jazz. The highlights of their performance were the songs “Joints and Jams” and “Fallin’ Up,” off their first album Behind the Front, and a brief breakdancing exhibition. Unfortunately, their performance did not seem to go over well with the largely teeny-bopper crowd -- the only person showing any real outward enthusiasm was a single black man jumping up and down amid a crowd of white teenagers. However, if this performance is any indication, their upcoming fall album, Bridging the Gap, should be a bigger success than their debut album.

Lit started off their set with rocking performances of “Down” and “Four” from their 1999 release A Place in the Sun, but their appeal seemed to diminish as they launched into hit singles “Miserable” and “Zip-lock.” Even “My Own Worst Enemy,” the powerful rock anthem which helped catapult the band to fame, sounded lackluster.

The rest of the set, comprised mostly of other tracks from A Place in the Sun --“No Big Thing,” “The Best is Yet to Come Undone” -- was as big a disappointment as the album was. One exception was “Over My Head,” their new single from the Titan A.E. soundtrack, which the band nailed solidly.

Frontman A. Jay Popoff seemed to be soaking in the band’s pop status; wearing silver pants and a star-shaped belt buckle, Popoff appeared almost arrogant, perhaps prematurely thinking of himself as a rock legend. Although the teeny-bopper crowd would have been impressed with anything, in truth the songs were barely distinguishable from each other, and their power pop with the same three or four chords grew tiring very quickly. After Lit’s set, it became startlingly clear that the Black Eyed Peas and Lit should have switched playing times.

No doubt about it, though, the main act made up for all of Lit’s shortcomings, rocking the Pavilion with a medley of songs mostly drawn from Tragic Kingdom.

After Kanal’s stint as the Karate Kid, the band launched into “Ex-Girlfriend,” the first single off Saturn. Drummer Adrian Young, who usually plays in the nude, appeared instead as a nude woman, with the help of a latex costume. Lead singer Gwen Stefani was mesmerizing as always, relating her usual stories of heartbreak while jumping up and down to the ska backbeat.

There were few slow moments during No Doubt’s set. Most of their songs sounded incredibly alive, among them “New,” “The Climb,” “Sunday Morning,” “Happy Now,” and “Just a Girl.” Also amazing was the lesser-known “Open the Gate,” off their 1995 release The Beacon Street Collection.

The band was at its best when it didn’t try to engage the crowd and just played the music. “Excuse Me Mr.” and “Don’t Speak” suffered terribly from crowd participation. Another lowpoint of No Doubt’s set was the slow number “Too Late,” which, no matter how well performed, could not have been saved.

In spite of this, No Doubt’s encore performance left the crowd almost giddy. Their newest single off Saturn, “Simple Kind of Life,” was honest, straightforward and beautiful, and illustrated the most attractive features of the band, aside from the lead singer. “Spiderwebs” was incredible as a finale, and witnessed the members of Lit and the Black-Eyed Peas stage-diving and taking pictures of themselves in front of the roaring crowd.

Overall, the concert was definitely worth going to, as long as you don’t mind having to hear Lit and being in a crowd of fifteen year-olds. No Doubt’s performance rocked, and the Return of Saturn tour is sure to help promote their latest album. And baby, the Black Eyed Peas are going places.