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No Doubt's new tour goes back to the future

May 14, 2009 |  3:52 pm

One challenge for No Doubt in assembling a major concert tour without a new album to focus on is that the quartet didn’t have an automatic theme around which to design the tour. The trek gets under way on Saturday in Las Vegas and reaches Southern California for several homecoming shows in late July and August (the band plays Fresno on May 19).

Band members toyed with, and rejected, several ideas until they landed on one that seemed to have potential -- reflecting what they wanted this tour to accomplish and their Southland origins: a stage design inspired by the iconic arches of the Encounter restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport.

Tour creative director Ray Woodbury and his team have come up with a gleaming white superstructure consisting of six ramps/legs extending from a central inverted cone that looks something like the hull of a spaceship, within which Adrian Young’s drum set is situated.

The entire stage is white, including amplifiers used by guitarist Tom Dumont and bassist Tony Kanal,  as well as keyboard stands on the upper arms for adjunct horn-section-keyboardist-singers Gabrial McNair and Stephen Bradley.

When Gwen Stefani, Kanal, Dumont and Young set eyes on it for the first time last week during rehearsals in Ontario, they appeared delighted. “They really nailed it!” Stefani said. “Now I feel like writing a song.”

That’s the idea behind the tour -- allowing the musicians to re-acclimatize themselves to one another and reignite the creative spark after a five-year hiatus.

But they didn’t initially know just how close to home their idea for the stage design hit.

“I took the idea to the artist I work with to draw up sketches, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s Googie!’” Woodbury said, referring to the Googie school of space-age architecture that originated in Southern California in the 1940s and became widely popular beyond the region in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It took its name from Googie’s coffee shop at Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights designed by John Lautner in 1949.

Some of the most familiar Googie-style designs are in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, in No Doubt’s hometown of Anaheim, which provided the backdrop to their 1995 breakthrough album “Tragic Kingdom.”

The dome-shaped Anaheim Convention Center, across the street from Disneyland, and Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome theater are two other prime examples.

“It’s really in their DNA,” Woodbury said. Employing Googie-style design elements today reflects the retro-futurism school that resurrects decades-old visions of a hopeful future.

That also ties in with No Doubt’s current mission statement to take a step back to their musical origins in order to take the next step forward in coming up with fresh material for an album with which to launch the next phase of the band’s career.

 --Randy Lewis

Related: For Gwen Stefani, never a doubt

Photo credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times