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Rockers No Doubt in top form

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NO DOUBT in concert, Monday night, July 17, 7:30 p.m., E Center; one performance only.

Small crowds can be loud, like the audience at Monday night's No Doubt concert. Though the E Center wasn't even filled to half capacity, the audience gave No Doubt and its opening acts Lit and Black Eyed Peas a deafening welcome.

No Doubt, which performed better than when the group played the Delta Center a few years ago, appeared to be at the top of its game. The band had the crowd following its every movement.

Lead singer Gwen Stefani's cartoonlike voice didn't falter once during the concert, which ended after 11 p.m., and her energy was boundless as she jumped, jived, ran and skanked through every song with the rest of her band. At one point, Stefani sat down to change into her "jumping boots," while bass player Tony Kanal and lead guitarist Tom Dumont bantered back and forth about whose side of the audience was loudest.

The set began with No Doubt's new hit "Ex-Girlfriend," then erupted with "Bathwater." Most of the songs No Doubt performed were from its recent release, "Return of Saturn." Slower songs — "Marry Me" and "Simple Life," from the "Return" album — were hypnotically performed without losing the fans' attention, but the band's former hits, "I'm Just a Girl," "Excuse Me Sir" and "Don't Speak," managed to steal the show.

Like all rock concerts, the evening was filled with memorable moments. Just before performing "Lovely Day," Lit asked if any female audience-members with long hair would be willing to have their heads shaved by No Doubt drummer Adrian Young for a video and for two backstage passes and the chance to hang out with Lit. There were plenty of volunteers. By the time song was finished, one young girl was bald, looking like a little alien, and quite thrilled.

After performing "Trapped in a Box," the band left the stage for about a minute, then quickly returned and exploded into a pair of encore numbers — "New" and "Spiderweb" — as members of Black Eyed Peas and Lit returned to the stage, and the show became a theatrical volcano. Together, they all backed Stefani, vaulting off the set and into the crowd to surf above the heads of the audience.

It was truly a huge finale, and it ended with the ensemble bowing, grinning from ear to ear. And so was the audience.

E-MAIL: lu@desnews.com