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No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani puts her glitzy stamp on Laketown Shakedown

7,000 showed up for the main event, but low temperatures and rain on Saturday hurt festival attendance.

LAKE COWICHAN — No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani turned in a megawatt performance to close out the Laketown Shakedown festival on Sunday, putting a glitzy stamp on the proceedings before a crowd of nearly 7,000 fans.

“Look who showed up!’” the pop star yelled shortly into her headlining set, which marked the arrival of the biggest star ever to play the Lake Cowichan festival.

Each year, organizers Wideglide Entertainment make minor tweaks to the on-site operations, but Laketown Ranch needs little in the way of improvement at this point; situated on 172 acres of private land, it’s an outdoor venue unlike few others on this side of the country.

The implementation of camping gives it the feel of a small village, with attendees roaming the site at all hours. But music is the primary focus. Metchosin rocker Jesse Roper drew raves on Friday and rapper Busta Rhymes brought a rugged intensity to Saturday, but the festival’s mix of local and international pop, rock, and hip-hop acts worked best this year when Stefani was on site. And she made every step count.

Stars of her stature don’t generally do their own soundchecks at festivals, so it was a surprise to see the 54-year-old step on stage in the early afternoon and familiarize herself with everything during her time-alotted walkthrough. It was a shock to the veteran site crew, festival manager Mike Hann said.

“She’s such a consummate professional. The way she came in to soundcheck, and spent the whole day on site, she was incredible.”

Temperatures hit 20 C around supper time in Lake Cowichan on Sunday, which was good news for the final night of the three-day event. That temperature reading is behind the curve from where summer weather should be at this point, which hurt the festival in terms of overall attendance. It even rained on Saturday.

Any event with camping as a major component is at the mercy of Mother Nature, and Laketown Shakedown felt the lack of heat this weekend.

Thanks be, then, to Stefani, whose first full performance on Vancouver Island since 1992 was extremely good. She was in great spirits throughout, and made good on her reputation for whiz-bang stagecraft. She’s an A-lister for a reason, and it showed on Sunday. The production values alone made her the act to beat at this or any other year.

Other acts on the bill included members of Los Angeles hip-hop collective Jurassic 5, alt-rocker Grandson, and Vancouver rapper BBNO$, the latter of whom brought some comic relief to the festival — on his birthday, no less. However, Stefani stood tallest before the biggest audience of the weekend, many of whom were in tears at the sight of the Don’t Speak singer.

Stefani even teared up at one point, after bringing the first of several young female fans on stage during her set. The icon — who has clearly learned a thing or two during her 30-plus in music and television — handled the exchanges with class.

Hits from her solo career and time with No Doubt were included (from It’s My Life and Cool to Hey Baby and Spiderwebs), but there were standout moments. Purple Irises, which she sang with her husband, country star Blake Shelton, on this very stage last year at Sunfest, was a surprise inclusion and held its own alongside the beach-friendly Underneath it All, which drew a rapturous reception.

Shelton did not appear on stage this year.

Strangely, her best-known hit, Don’t Speak, was the only flat song of the night. However, the call and response of Hollaback Girl, elastic funk of Rich Girl, and Dr. Dre-produced Let Me Blow Ya Mind (which made good use of Stefani’s eight back-up dancers, and afforded her the time to make a wardrobe change) were exceptional.

Organizers definitely saved the best for last.

Stefani, with 60 million records sold worldwide, was definitely worthy of the advance hype, and gives Laketown ­Shakedown something special to build upon with next year’s edition.

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