Gwen Stefani's fans were 'kiasu' but her F1 concert was totally worth the money

Gwen Stefani performed at the Padang Stage at the Singapore Grand Prix 2019 on Saturday, Sept 21.
PHOTO: AsiaOne

It was a hot and hazy evening at the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix 2019 yesterday (Sept 21) but nothing was hotter and smokier than Gwen Stefani's performance at the Padang which saw the effervescent American singer-songwriter take the stage by storm.

The enthusiasm for her concert was apparent when we decided to head down to the venue an hour earlier to chope a spot only to find that it was packed and people had already occupied most of the front rows in the mosh pit.

Not surprising, considering that the last time she was here was for the 2009 F1 Rocks concert.

Call us kiasu but clearly we were not the only ones.

Gwen kicked things off with a classic — The Sweet Escape — much to the relief of this writer who wasn't as familiar with her latest hits.

It wasn't the most explosive song in her repertoire to be honest, but the cheers that erupted and swept through the crowd instinctively as she appeared on stage gave it the much-needed oomph which set the tone for her 75-minute set.

Gwen was here to put on a show.

The concert was jam-packed with famous numbers from No Doubt (the ska-pop band she fronted) like Sunday Morning, Underneath It All and Hey Baby, as well as solo hits, all of which showcased her artistry and proficiency as a performer.

A notable moment was when she segued from Make Me Like You — a song inspired by her relationship with country singer Blake Shelton, whom she called the "hottest guy on The Voice" — to Don't Speak, a breakup song that she rewrote after her split from No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal.

PHOTO: AsiaOne

Initially uptempo and peppy after Make Me Like You, Gwen seemingly flipped the switch on her emotions as the soulful tune of Don't Speak started blaring on the speakers and she crooned the opening line of the song.

To put it in millennial speak, Gwen singing Don't Speak was such a mood and it took me back to my emo days as a kid where I would stare listlessly out the window of the bus, just watching the buildings and people roll by.

Age was evidently not an issue for the 49-year-old, who effortlessly transitioned between her high-energy numbers, mostly pausing to take a sip of water and dry off her sweat. Whenever the camera gave her loving close-ups, it was also not hard to marvel at her youthful looks for she could have easily blended into the audience filled with 30-somethings if it weren't for her signature platinum blonde locks and bold red lipstick.

And what about that outline of a six-pack that was visible beneath her sheer top? Hot diggity, that was enough to put a lot of people to shame.

The Just A Girl hitmaker also took some time out to banter with the crowd and made a fan's night as Gwen acceded to her request for an autograph so she could get a tattoo of it. Later, Gwen jokingly revealed that she was only talking to take a break because she wanted to "stop sweating" and exclaimed that it was "f****** hot".

Calling Singapore and her fans "magical", she said that this visit was worth taking a 17-hour flight for and expressed her desire to have some local food that she dearly misses.

She asked the 45,000-strong crowd: "Anyone wants to send some food backstage? Singapore noodles or something?"

Oh Gwen, we love you but just like that inappropriate bindi, you should know better than to ask for "Singapore noodles", as it's very much a Western creation.

Another thing that caught this writer's attention was how her voice seemed to falter towards the end of the set, at times disappearing completely for very brief moments, and she looked breathless. But considering the hazy conditions and the fact that Gwen had been giving us a value-for-money performance with 20 songs squeezed into 75 minutes, it was understandable.

PHOTO: AsiaOne

Other than that, her vocal prowess was stunning and she sounded just as good as she did in the '90s and on her album.

With electrifying numbers, an energetic performance and a big finish with Hollaback Girl, Gwen definitely made her 10-year absence felt in the heart of her fans and made this writer wonder what she can accomplish in a full concert such as her Las Vegas residency.

And while her show provided a sweet escape from life, leaving the Padang stage was anything but due to the limited and inconspicuous exits, and the bottleneck that formed at each of them.

But that, is a story for another time.

bryanlim@asiaone.com

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Gwen's age as 48 and her last appearance in Singapore as 2007.

VIDEOS TO WATCH

SERVICES