|No Doubt: Live in the Tragic Kingdom
Watching this live document of No Doubt’s from 1997, one thing is certainly clear. That is that this band at that time was pretty damn overrated and they had a bunch of filler going on. Gwen Stefani couldn’t have been more annoying with her athleticized Betty Boop shtick, as evidenced by her between-song interactions with the audience. Her too-cute-to-be-true routine is enough to make one gag. Lucky for her and the rest of the band, they’d get a little more interesting as time went on.
But perhaps sitting through an entire No Doubt live show is a bit too much to ask of anyone. Has anyone noticed that this group has always basically been a good singles act? All of their albums are filled with an undeniable amount of dross amongst the chart toppers. And then, even some of those hit singles (say, for instance, “Don’t Speak”) aren’t that good, either. At any rate, “Live in the Tragic Kingdom” finds the band right at their breakthrough moment, when “Just a Girl,” “Don’t Speak,” and “Spiderwebs” were all dominating the charts at some point.
The concert was caught by director Sophie Muller in Anaheim, California. Says Miller on the back of the DVD case, “One of the reasons I wanted to work with No Doubt in the first place, is that I saw them play live. It seems only fair that the rest of the world be allowed this same honour. Plus it was really good fun.” Ah yes, those heady late ‘90s when the ska revival was beginning its decline. Yet there was No Doubt, giving it all they had and raking it in. What can be said about this spectacle other than it’s a pretty plain Jane show?
Sure, the drummer’s in his patented boxer shorts get up, and Tony Kanal is hopping all over the place, jumping over Gwen Stefani’s arm at one point as she rushes towards him with it out in front of his legs. The scene is repeated from another angle, just in case you missed the amazing feat the first time. Stefani also rolls around a bit and does her sexy aerobic performance much to a delighted audience. There are glitter cannons that explode and a stripped down version of “Hey You” that works a shitload better on the Tragic Kingdom album in full-blown groove.
It’s telling that this audience totally goes nuts when the hit singles are played. Otherwise, they’re just kind of there. The band plays a tribute to Brad Nowell of Sublime in the form of the song “D.J.s” and then ends everything with a pointless cover of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” in which the roadies and other folks join the group onstage for some really bad dancing. Other than that, you get to sit through bland songs like “Different People,” “Happy Now?” and “Excuse Me, Mr.”
The bonus features include a whole set of “home movies” spanning the years 1992-1997 and are about as enjoyable as watching anyone’s home movies. See Gwen when her hair was really long! Watch the group open Christmas presents! Check each member showing off their instruments! Sit through really bad early live shows when the band seemed completely unintelligible and hopped up on too much sugar! Yawnsville, baby. On top of that, you get a photo gallery and a different version of the “Don’t Speak” video, plus “Different People,” “Don’t Speak,” and “Hey You” done up live once again from Den Haag.It’s decent enough, but this is truly something for the hardcore fan. Otherwise, just rent it or face the reality of finding it collecting dust on your shelf. No Doubt grew leaps and bounds after 1997, even though they had already been going at it for a few years before. “Live in the Tragic Kingdom” is a bit tragic, given that, but it is quite lively, even if it’s simultaneously boring and aggravating during most of it.