U2 Who? No Doubt Brings Down the House at KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas

The 25th anniversary of the holiday concert features heavy rock and lots of dudes, but Gwen Stefani still rules

KROQ celebrated its 25th Almost Acoustic Christmas this weekend at the Forum. No Doubt, Tears for Fears, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, Imagine Dragons, System of a Down, and more than a dozen other acts helped ring in the anniversary along with Kevin & Bean, Stryker, Nicole Alvarez, and the rest of the KROQ crew.

The two-day charity event benefitting Para Los Ninos and the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center brought out a host of musicians, celebrities, insiders, and friends of the iconic rock station such as Aaron Paul, Will Arnett, Alessandra Ambrosio, Jimmy Kimmel, and Miley Cyrus.

The first night was dominated by heavier rock acts Rise Against, Linkin Park, and System of a Down, who made it more of an un-acoustic Christmas. The second night showcased more alternative fare such as Imagine Dragons, Alt-J, Vance Joy, and Interpol, in keeping with the event’s usual format. The male-dominated weekend was punctuated by Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, which filled in for U2 after Bono’s recent bicycling injury. As much as we would’ve enjoyed seeing U2, No Doubt’s history with the station made it the more logical choice for the event.

Stefani got nostalgic when she dedicated “Simple Kind of Life” to her husband Gavin Rossdale of Bush, whom she met at 1995’s Acoustic Christmas. “Now Gavin plays day one and I play day two,” she said from stage. “And then Weezer is there, and we once went on tour with them, too. So it’s a really weird flashback, like, ‘Whoa, how did all this time go by?’”

Stefani also paid homage to the station, saying “We owe our careers to KROQ” before closing out Night Two with a hit-laden set and sending good wishes to Bono. Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda also took a beat to thank KROQ for its longtime support; the band has played the event seven times, opening the show during their first appearance and headlining the next year.

Night Two had the stronger lineup. Tears for Fears came out swinging with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and covered Radiohead’s “Creep” while Smashing Pumpkins featured Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk on drums and the Killers’ Mark Stoermer on bass. During Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” the crowd at the Forum found its inner karaoke star. The whole weekend was a treat for fans of ‘90s music, which was perfect for the station’s 25th anniversary.

Tom Morello and Tommy Lee came out to show their support for one of the most buzzed-about bands of the event, Royal Blood. This was the English duo’s first invite to play the concert and the honor wasn’t lost on the recent Mercury Prize nominees. “We feel lucky to be playing such an anticipated event,” vocalist Mike Kerr told us backstage. “We’re very privileged to open up.” If you missed their set at Acoustic, the band hits the road next year with the Foo Fighters (Dave and Co. personally chose them to open). “It’s an incredible thing to be personally invited by one of our musical heroes, Kerr says. “If it wasn’t for his music, our band wouldn’t sound the way it does.”

While we had some trepidation about a Christmas bash hosted at a sports arena, especially since the event had become synonymous with the cozy Gibson Amphitheatre (RIP), but the Forum’s multi-million dollar renovation proved that when it comes to celebrating a milestone, bigger can actually be better.

Highlight: U2 who? No Doubt—practically the house band for Acoustic Christmas after all these years—brought the house down. And Gwen Stefani still hasn’t aged.

Lowlight: KROQ DJ Bean fell off the stage minutes before No Doubt played their set. We hear he’s okay, and now he can bond with Bono.