“I’m just a girl in Vegas!” exclaimed Gwen Stefani near the end of her Las Vegas debut on Wednesday (June 27), on a tear of classic No Doubt and solo hits of her own.
Joining the ranks of Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Jennifer Lopez in settling in for residencies at Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, the Anaheim, Calif. pop star made her Sin City debut at Zappos Theater, marking the first of her 25-date Just a Girl spectacular with shows that run through March 2019.
It was a relatively simple yet fully formed affair, with minor and forgivable kinks. Stefani spent the near two-hour runtime reviving songs from her past with a fresh twist, energy on tilt and focus lasered. Unlike her Vegas peers, bells and whistles were few, save for the bananas brandished by her fleet of backup dancers for opener “Hollaback Girl” and her giant cake throne for “Wind It Up.” Instead, the 48-year-old let the songs do the work, with minimal stage banter and footwork, leaving the heavy lifting to her backup dancers.
What separated Stefani from the pack, though, was the fact that she breathlessly sang live. Many Vegas performers opt out of actually keeping their mics on as they hit choreography, and it was a compelling choice. She sounded fresh, on-key and connected with her music, making for a show that felt less like an automation and aligning with her brand: a talented girl in the world, uncompromising, giving it her all with little artifice.
The show began after her boyfriend Blake Shelton stepped in the sold-out house around 9:15pm, grinning and interacting with the crowd, with Stefani taking the stage five minutes later. As the curtains opened and horn fanfare erupted, she emerged with a trail of dancers behind her, clad in thigh-high glitter boots and a glitter cape over a glitter jacket. Sparkle was a theme throughout the night—near the end, she came out in a chic farm-ready ensemble care of designer Jeremy Scott, who watched from the crowd as she shouted him and Shelton out.
During the performance, Stefani kept it trim, doing an almost anti-Vegas change of costume, clocking out around five. (Cher, for example, has upwards of 14.) The smash singles were plenty —“Bathwater, “Spiderwebs,” “Hella Good,” “Rich Girl,” “Luxurious,” “Cool,” a cover of Rihanna's “Umbrella”— and the presentation was smooth. Save, for except, a few moments where a backup dancer tried to secure a cape on her for “Don’t Speak” to disappointment, or when another dancer tried to disconnect a corset from her frame. To her credit, she adlibbed wonderfully, bringing two girls and then their other sister on stage to help her out of the latter.
“Someone get up here and take this shit off me right now, this little girl. I want you and you to come undress me right now, please,” she said, pulling them into the spotlight. “See, this is basically our dress rehearsal, and that’s why I said tonight was one of the most memorable of the entire tour. This is the very first time this has ever happened to me. Actually, I crapped my pants one time in the crotch.”
The more unguarded moments held notable weight. As one fan in the sea of standing room fans in the pit waved a rainbow flag, perhaps coincidentally coinciding with Pride month, Stefani brought up a lesbian couple on stage after spotting them in the crowd. “I want to talk to these weirdoes,” she said, referencing the audience at large. She settled on the pair, noting the hats branded with messages they were wearing just before sliding into “Underneath It All.” “So ‘I’m her Gwen,’ and ‘I’m her Blake.’ Congratulations, I know it feels good.”
In fact, she made a point to let the audience know that she could see them and encouraged them to give back. “So this is super exciting for me because sometimes, I say, I can see everybody! I can actually see everybody. So if you’re misbehaving, not reacting, being lazy, I will get you, and I will embarrass you.”
There were several video vignettes as she changed costumes, reflecting on her upbringing and replete with home videos of her as a child. One felt particularly important to Stefani: In a camo jacket, she spoke to the camera about her love of fashion as magazine covers she’s graced moved across the screen.
“Fashion has always inspired me. I mean, culture has always inspired me,” she said. “My mom made my clothes, and her mom her clothes and my great grandma made her clothes. It’s just in me, it’s my DNA. And I love anything old Hollywood, vintage. I love seeing images of my mom in the ‘60s and there’s not a decade in fashion that doesn’t draw my attention and there’s not a culture that I’m not fascinated by. I just love the art fashion and how fashion is such an extension of your personality and mood.”
By the end, she was composed and happy, genuinely enjoying the moment, and above all, grateful for the opportunity. “Thank you guys so much for coming out tonight. This is insanity! I can’t believe I’m in Vegas right now! Thank you for all the love we’ve experienced all the years, thank you for all the cheers, thank you for letting me share my life story with you.”