Cold Palaces, gothic apartment blocks and welcoming streets; there's nothing like winter in Paris. Barely three days before the event was scheduled to go ahead, I was invited by HP to celebrate their brand new relationship with Universal. The festivities entailed enjoying a private performance by Californian Pop-rockers No Doubt in the grandiose Maison de la Mutualité. As it's both their sole celebration of their first record in eleven years and only European show of year, the night was an exciting one. After fifteen seconds of contemplation, I was in Kings Cross Eurostar terminal being handed my ticket and a packed lunch – how quaint?
After arriving in Paris and assuming my hotel room at the foot of The Eiffel Tower, we began prepping for Stefani and co. Grabbing some dinner with an amiable group of HP employees, I wanted to pick their brains about their intentions in the industry – they happily obliged. Other than their detailing of the HP Connected endeavour, much of our conversation was based around their vast knowledge of the modern climate and who they'd love to work with, which I found heartening.
"Sappy pathetic little me, that was the girl I used to be" – 'Sunday Morning' opens the show on a self-deprecating note; though Adrian Young's simultaneous stuck-out tongue and bouncing drum style wouldn't have you know it. Interchanging instruments, tartan print and synchronised dances – not only were the old timers as well-versed as anybody you'll see worldwide, but they looked far from a band who've just returned from an extensive hiatus. After a foray of offerings from their new record, Gwen yelled, "I want to see every person here jumping with me tonight," the jubilant crowd were seared as quickly as performances of 'Underneath It All' and 'It's My Life' set them alight.
Smiling, chatting and giggling; friends Tony Kamal, Tom Dumont, Gwen Stefani and Adrian Young were clearly enjoying one another's company. Between his versatility and concentration, Tom's musical prowess spoke for itself: his Spanish Guitar solo on the evenings highlight, 'Don't Speak' was joyous. No Doubt's clear virtuosity makes them resemble a group from a forgotten age.
There must be something special in that West-Coast American water as Stefani was able to croon songs like it was 1992. Her adaptability was rife throughout, allowing songs to be softly spoken, delicately garnished and, above all, powered from her very core. The rapid exchanges of rapped lines with touring band-mate, Stephen Bradley, made for some terrific moments.
As the stylistically cluttered projections flooded the back wall, sweat dropped and frenzy continued, performances of both new track 'Settle Down' and ska-hit 'Spiderwebs' continued to depict how it wasn't only a night of nostalgia, but celebration. Every jubilant off-beat rhythm, every dowse of brass, and every Stefani embrace; 2012 feels like a rebirth for a band that are ready to rock the boat again.
The event was held to support the launch HP Connected, a brand new service that allows users to access and stream exclusive content worldwide.