With a jut of the jaw and a roll of the shoulders, the woman scorned in the come-hither kilt gave her ex his comeuppance, her words alternately purred and spat.
“This is your punishment,” Gwen Stefani boomed on “Red Flag,” a bottom-heavy banger about discarded love powered by a bass line that sounded like a flatulating rhino.
The song was the first number that Stefani performed at the T-Mobile Arena on Friday, as well as the first tune that she penned for her latest album, “This is What the Truth Feels Like,” a record written in the wake of her acrimonious split with husband Gavin Rossdale.
Rossdale’s since become a dashing pinata for Stefani to whack at in song, which she did with relish.
“I hate liars,” she bellowed on “Baby Don’t Lie,” a prescient electropop daydream about a lover’s questionable dedication that was written and released before her divorce, foreshadowing the nightmare soon to follow. As Stefani sang, bouncing up and down on legs that seemed spring-loaded, she continually raised her hands to her temples and hunched forward, mimicking the stance of a boxer deflecting an opponent’s punches, only in this case, the blows were emotional rather than physical.
On the concussive funk of “Naughty,” where drums pounded like a marathon runner’s heart, Stefani finally had enough, her emotions detonating with enough force to crumble a building.
“You hid that from me!” she roared at song’s end, with a few choice expletives thrown in, addressing her former husband’s rumored infidelity with eyes wide and nostrils flared.
Here’s the thing, though: Thus far, we’ve only given you half the story, the vengeful half.
But “Truth” is the product of a bifurcated heart, equally portioned between sadness and exultation.
On the album, love has been lost, but it has also been found.
And so while she cast a teary eye to the past on the raw, implacable “Used to Love You,” her performance was more given to the rosier romantic prospects of the present.
Ultimately, this was a show more about resolve than retaliation, new love than old wounds — although, a few scabs were picked, of course.
Sporting a Scottish getup with a plaid crop top, matching thigh highs, aforementioned kilt and combat boots, Stefani commanded the largely unadorned stage in modern day “Braveheart” gear, backed by a small, tight band and crew of dancers beneath a quartet of bracket-shaped video screens suspended from the rafters.
Since she first became a star in the mid-’90s as the frontwoman for No Doubt, Stefani has mixed feminine assertiveness with a measure of vulnerability, grit with glamour, channeling Rosie the Riveter, Marilyn Monroe and an over-caffeinated aerobics instructor all at once.
Her chic toughness made her a standout in the ’90s alt-rock boom, referenced by renditions of multiple No Doubt hits (“Don’t Speak,” “Just A Girl,” ”Hella Good”).
As Stefani turned toward the songs on “Truth” that celebrated her new-found love, they floated by like an island breeze, which was fitting because many of them bore a Caribbean bent, from the ska-lite of “Where Would I Be” to the pneumatic beats and near-disco slink of “Rare.”
“You know I would be dumb to give perfection up,” Stefani sang on the latter number, giving voice to the underlying theme of the show: the importance of maintaining a sense of self even when insecurities threaten to gnaw away at one’s identity.
As she performed the song in question, Stefani seemed to have done just that: If you plucked all the stars from her eyes, you’d have had the raw material for a new constellation or two.
Stefani’s onstage demeanor mirrored as much, as she repeatedly took selfies with fans and high-stepped through solo hits such as “Wind It Up,” “Hollaback Girl” and “Rich Girl,” where she was joined onstage by show opener Eve, whose mic, rings and body suit sparkled in unison.
Still, there’s no doubt that Stefani’s divorce shook her, at least temporarily.
“I never thought I’d tour again. Ever,” Stefani said in a short video that played before she took the stage, such was her state after her divorce.
And yet, here she was, showing off her fortitude as much as her curves, bare midriff and all.
“If I could escape and re-create a place that’s my own world, and I could be your favorite girl, perfectly together, tell me boy now wouldn’t that be sweet?” she asked on a show-closing “Sweet Escape,” a song originally released in 2006, when it was directed at another man.
Ten years later, the tune represents perseverance as much as passion for Stefani.
The object of that song’s affection has changed.
The woman who sings it?
Far less so.
Who: Gwen Stefani
Where: T-Mobile Arena