News your connection to The Boston Globe

A sweet escape with Stefani

Gwen Stefani (above, in March) climbed over seats Wednesday night to lead a sing-along. Gwen Stefani (above, in March) climbed over seats Wednesday night to lead a sing-along. (kevin winter/getty images/file)

MANSFIELD -- Gwen Stefani rolled onstage in a jail cell at the Tweeter Center Wednesday night singing "The Sweet Escape." Of course she escaped, sweet as can be in sparkling prison hot pants, singing with Akon under a giant blinged-out "G" while the Harajuku Girls pranced in policewoman garb.

Rarely has a road show delivered so literally on its name as Stefani's "The Sweet Escape" tour. "Rich Girl" was the soundtrack to an adorable robbery, featuring Gwen and the Girls in bat capes. A glimmery apron and postmodern toque turned "Yummy" into a celebration of pastries, as doughnuts scrolled across video screens. And then Gwen was the pastry, frosted in impossible folds of pink and gold fabric for "4 in the Morning."

The production, like its star, was compact and clever, devoid of pomp but full of whimsy. Costumes, a lot of them, were layered for a minimum of diva-like delays, which only works if you're a woman inclined to wear sequined ruby gym shorts under a houndstooth coat.

Ironically, for a performer so enamored of artifice, Stefani perpetually comes off as one of the more genuine chart-toppers. Her voice was built for amped-up cheers like "Hollaback Girl," not slow jams like "Luxurious," but her bad notes were hers, part of a real personality rather than a standard-issue pop star. It's hard to picture Fergie lamenting that her tour is half over by noting that "it makes me want to throw up," or Madonna climbing over seats cautioning "everybody be calm !" so she could lead a massive sing-along of "Cool" from the middle of the house.

Stefani performed nearly all of her new album and a handful of tracks from 2004's "Love.Angel.Music.Baby. ," her solo debut. Her backup band had no trouble sating Stefani's fickle appetite for '80s pop, contemporary club, new wave, and yodeling -- sometimes all in the same song. "Wind It Up" is an endearing mess that samples strings from "The Sound of Music" and beats from the Neptunes, and in Stefani's wacky world it made perfect sense to sequence it on the heels of "Early Winter," a winsome anthem that featured longtime Bowie bassist Gail Ann Dorsey singing a thrilling coda. A sweet escape, indeed.

Hip-hop star Akon was on his best behavior after an explicit dancing incident with an underage concertgoer last month caused Verizon to pull its tour sponsorship, leaving U K rapper Lady Sovereign to get down and dirty on the microphone.

Joan Anderman can be reached at For more on music visit music/blog.


Gwen Stefani

With Akon

At: the Tweeter Center, Wednesday night