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The Greatest Show on Earth?

Set to thrill audiences with a summer greatest-hits tour, No Doubt talk about 17 years together and what Gwen's solo album means for the group

Gwen Stefani | SIDESHOW Stefani steps away from the boys later this year with her first solo album
Image credit: Gwen Stefani Photograph by Gavin Bond
SIDESHOW Stefani steps away from the boys later this year with her first solo album

The little O.C.-teen-ska-band-that-could, No Doubt, is hitting the amphitheater circuit in June, pairing up with blink-182 for one of the summer's most anticipated tours. (One of the most economical, too: Ticket prices top out in the mid-two-figure range, or about $250 cheaper than it'd cost you for a similar seat to see Madonna.) It's a nationwide victory lap in honor of their recent blockbuster hits collection, ''The Singles 1992-2003,'' whose one new song, a cover of Talk Talk's ''It's My Life,'' afforded them yet another top 10 smash (their tenth). This could be the optimal point in their history to catch the band: They've been together long enough to almost count as seasoned elder statesmen -- 17 years, which is about 170 in rock years -- but, being still in their 30s, they're vigorous, scrappy, and in no danger yet of outgrowing their audience.

Which is not to say they haven't outgrown a few youthful vices. In ''Hey Baby,'' one of several massive singles from their triple-platinum 2001 album ''Rock Steady,'' Gwen Stefani immortalized her bandmates' old postshow romantic pursuits, as ironically observed by her from across a crowded bacchanal. But any would-be female band-aids hoping to be party to that decadence this summer may walk away disappointed, since, with everyone in the group either married, engaged, or seriously involved, that song is primarily a historical document.

''I'm sad for Tony on this tour a little bit,'' Stefani says, offering sympathy for her bassist and ex-boyfriend Tony Kanal's lost youth. ''Because these guys used to party so hard. Basically they would start drinking at around five to get rid of the hangover from the night before. Then they'd have an after-party every night, bring a DJ booth and lights and songs and everything, with whatever backstage passes got out to whatever girls. And it was months of that, every single night. The nights we didn't play, they would go to clubs.'' Those years may be gone, but, to crudely paraphrase ''Casablanca,'' they'll always have porcelain.

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