Gusto – John Rzeznik unveiled: Goo Goo Dolls frontman finds peace in sobriety, love in fatherhood

By Tim O’Shei

WESTFIELD, N.J. – John Rzeznik lives in a spacious, two-story home with manicured landscaping and a wrap-around porch supported by white columns. There’s a minivan in the driveway, and a Tesla, too. When the doorbell clangs, a chocolate lab named Roscoe greets visitors. Rzeznik is inside on a rainy late-summer day, brewing coffee that he’ll drink only after cooling it with water, lest he burn the vocal chords that got him here, and keep him here.

Rzeznik’s daughter Liliana, who turns 2 in December, is in the kitchen. “Dad-DEEE!” she says, giggling as she toddles to her father. Lili, as Rzeznik and his wife, Melina, call their daughter, has her father’s alabaster skin and reddish-brown hair. He’s smitten with the way she talks, using words like “Corr-ECT!” and “Dad-DEEE!” “It’s always about the second syllable,” said Rzeznik, his voice tender.

His voice is a famous voice. This is the voice of “Iris,” the mournful pop ballad he wrote that is one of the most-played songs on radio in the last 20 years. That Rzeznik voice is the one lodged in the pop-culture zeitgeist. We all can have it. We can hear it, emulate it and see it when Rzeznik’s Goo Goo Dolls play live, which they will do Oct. 19-21 in their hometown of Buffalo with a trio of sold-out shows.

But these tender tones are just for him and her, for the daddy he never knew he would become, and the daughter he never thought he would have. “I’m paraphrasing someone else,” said Rzeznik, seated at his dining-room table, “but kids turn you into the person that you should have been the whole time.”

Rzeznik, who is 52, wasn’t on a path to this place. He grew up in a broken family on the East Side, was orphaned as a teenager and gained fame as a rock star.

But nearly four years earlier, in a hotel room just 26 miles from his family and his porch and his minivan and his dining room table, he teetered on the edge of losing it all.

Some of the best songwriters possess the ability to be doubly poetic and honest, to capture life’s rawness and buff it with a sense of hope, even retroactively. Rzeznik recounts his life through that same lens. His mother, Edith, was a teacher. She was a talented, creative and smart woman who dabbled in music and art. She taught her four daughters – Phyllis, Fran, Glad and Kate – and her youngest child, John, to read before kindergarten.

His father, Joseph, was a mailman who woke up before dawn every day to go to work. Joseph grew up in the same area where he raised his family.

“His family owned a bar,” said John Rzeznik, who can’t recall the name of the East Side establishment, but knows it was on Detroit Street. “That was sort of a step up from the average person in that neighborhood at that time.” Rzeznik then brought up the book “The Last Fine Time,” a 1991 novel by Verlyn Klinkenborg about a corner bar on Buffalo’s East Side.

“Have you read it?” he asked. “It’s a great book.”

Rzeznik, whose 1998 hit “Broadway” is named after the East Side thoroughfare and tells the story of “young man sitting in the old man’s bar, waiting for his turn to die,” is heading in a euphemistic direction with this one.

“I like to romanticize about it being something different than it was when I was growing up,” he admitted. “It was a hard-ass neighborhood.”

And a hard life. John recalls his mother as a demanding woman who took after her mother — a “German disciplinarian,” Rzeznik said. “Smack you when you got out of line.”

Edith was his second-grade teacher at Corpus Christi Grammar School.

“It went really badly,” Rzeznik said, almost laughing. “She couldn’t help me. I had to get help with my homework from my sisters. She was hard. She would definitely let you know when you were wrong.

“She would take decisive action.”

This time he is laughing, but not because memories of his childhood home are funny. He’s laughing because what else can he do? The Rzeznik home was a tough and distant place, where corporal punishment was parenting and love was elusive. Edith and Joseph had a bad relationship, and John thinks his mother encouraged her children to have a chilly relationship with their father. Joseph was “a pretty serious drinker,” his son said. “I have no idea how he survived as long as he did.”

John wonders still how his father managed to drink as he did, but still get up at 4:30 a.m.

“They don’t build people like that anymore. But, you know, he was a little distant. That’s the …”

He was searching for the words.

“That’s the mark of an alcoholic — the distance,” he continued. “It’s a very lonely disease. It’s a disease of loneliness.”

On Sunday mornings, Joseph would wake up his son early and take him for a ride in the car. “Just me and him,” John said. It was a guys’ getaway, of sorts; the Rzeznik household was otherwise all women, so those Sunday drives were among the few purely father-son moments they shared.

Did Joseph Rzeznik love his children? John still ponders that question today. He thinks his dad loved him, and loved his sisters, too.

“I’m only speculating, but I feel like he had something in his heart that couldn’t be filled by having a bunch of kids or having a wife or anything like that,” Rzeznik said. “I think he took to drinking because it filled that space. Or it gave the illusion of filling the space. It never truly does.

“So that’s that.”

It was November 2014 in midtown Manhattan. Rzeznik was in New York City on a writing trip.

Rzeznik was nearly two decades into his life as an international rock star. He looked the part, with a sharp jaw and high cheekbones and shagged hair that covers his blue eyes. He lived like one, too, with a bungalow in the lower Hollywood Hills, a string of hit songs dating to 1995, when “Name” made the Goo Goo Dolls famous, and a fashionable chip on his shoulder that suggested his work, celebrated as it is, is still underappreciated.

(Case in point: Rzeznik’s landmark hit “Iris,” which was written for the soundtrack of the 1998 Nicolas Cage film “City of Angels,” topped every chart and ranks among the most-played songs on radio over the last 20 years. But it failed to land a spot in the Academy Awards. “ ‘Iris’ should have been nominated for an Oscar, hands down,” said Tom Calderone, a SUNY Buffalo State graduate and longtime MTV and VH1 executive who has worked closely with the Goo Goo Dolls since the late ’80s.)

From the outside, Rzeznik’s life even in middle age seemed glamorous. The Goo Goo Dolls were still packing venues. After splitting with his first wife in the late ’90s, he found love and got married again in 2013. His Malibu wedding to the former Melina Gallo, whom he had dated since 2005, was intimate and classy — and captured in detail by People magazine.

Rzeznik seemed steady, strong, stable and successful.

But demons lurked beneath.

As a young boy in a Polish neighborhood, Rzeznik’s first instrument was, not surprisingly, the accordion. Also not surprisingly, it wasn’t the most socially acceptable instrument. “It brought a lot of ridicule and hazing,” said Rzeznik, who talked his mother into letting him trade the accordion for the drums – “which lasted a week,” he said, because of the noise.

Edith Rzeznik ultimately bought her son an electric guitar with an amplifier, and gave him money for lessons. After a few sessions, John, who was around 13, started skipping the lessons and using the money for beer. Some of the older kids in the neighborhood taught him to play a bit. “I just knew enough to get by,” Rzeznik said. “I just knew enough to fool my mom.”

In those early- to mid-teen years, John had what seemed to be a solid group of friends. They hung out, they drank, and he continued playing the guitar. But those pieces of his life began to topple. First, his friends left him. He’s not sure why; he didn’t know then, and he doesn’t get it now, either. But he still thinks about it, and he’s considered tracking down those guys simply to ask where he went wrong.

Then came a “1-2 punch,” as Rzeznik calls it, that crushed his world. In February 1981, when John was 15, Joseph Rzeznik had a heart attack, then caught pneumonia in the hospital, and died. Just over a year later, his mother suffered a heart attack and died, leaving John without parents at age 16.

Those days remain vivid in his memory, and these ones, he doesn’t romanticize.

“I didn’t have any friends at the time and my father had died,” said Rzeznik, who found solace in playing guitar. He sat with his instrument, day and night, playing a repetitious, free-form series of chords. He twisted the strings on his guitar to unorthodox tunings, trying to get the instrument to play what he was hearing his head. “(It was) almost hypnotic, in a way,” Rzeznik said. “I would just play that stuff and realize hours had gone by.”

Rzeznik had no way of knowing this yet, but those dark moments in the days following his father’s death, when he channeled his emotions by playing the guitar in a way that bucked the standard, were the roots of some of his most famous songs. “Name,” “Iris,” and several other Goo Goo Dolls hits are known for their alternate guitar tunings that create a shimmering effect.

“I had no idea what was going on inside my head,” he said. “I didn’t understand it, that what I was feeling was depression, and it was very, very hard.”

Rzeznik was rescued by a classmate at McKinley Vocational High School. Joey O’Grady, who took a shop class with Rzeznik, asked John to hang out with him and his brother Kevin.

Somebody cared.

“I didn’t realize what I was feeling was depression until Joey O’Grady asked me to come hang out with him,” Rzeznik said, “and I felt like I’d been lifted from the inside.”

Rzeznik and the O’Grady brothers formed a bond, partying and listening to music. “We laughed a lot,” Rzeznik said. “They were just really interesting and cool people.”

He’s lost touch with Joey O’Grady, too, but wants to track him down. “I just want to thank him for that,” said Rzeznik, who graduated from McKinley in 1983 and soon after met another young guy who became a close friend, and something more. Something more like a brother; someone who would stand by him to build something big, and someone who would stick by him in the darkest moments. Someone who wouldn’t leave even when they wouldn’t talk.

His name was Robby Takac, his partner of three decades in the pop-culture music machine called the Goo Goo Dolls.

It’s Nov. 16, 2014, at the London NYC, the midtown Manhattan hotel where Rzeznik was staying on his writing trip. Rzeznik was in his room, deciding whether to take a drink. He wrestled with his thoughts:

What if he did it and lived? He didn’t care.

What if he died? He didn’t care.

Rzeznik thought to himself, “You might be better off dead.” And that scared him, but not enough. He took a drink.

Rzeznik and Takac formed a yin-and-yang match that blossomed. Whereas Rzeznik grew up in a broken home in a poor section of the city, Takac grew up with a loving mother and father in suburban West Seneca. While Rzeznik was, and remains, shy in small-group conversations, he was – and is – comfortable performing onstage. Takac, conversely, is a sociable guy offstage who was, and is, comfortable playing a secondary role to Rzeznik, who is the Goo Goo Dolls’ frontman.

While the band included a third member for long periods (drummer George Tutuska from 1985 to 1994, and drummer Mike Malinin from 1998 to 2013), Rzeznik and Takac have always been the core.

“I think both of us were pretty lucky to have each other around when we were that age, when we had first met,” Takac said. “I think we both brought some pretty serious realities to each other’s lives from polar opposite ends of the spectrum. I think maybe that’s still a little bit of what we do right now for each other.”

The Goo Goo Dolls’ stature exploded in the ’90s, first with 1995’s “Name,” and then with the 1998 “Dizzy Up the Girl” album, which included hits “Black Balloon” and “Slide,” along with “Broadway” and “Iris.” (The band’s current tour is a celebration of the 20th anniversary of “Dizzy.”)

In the late ’90s and early 2000s, the band was playing arena-size shows and partying just as big. Calderone, who was then in charge of music programming at MTV, booked the Goo Goo Dolls to play the network’s turn-of-the-millennium New Year’s Eve show in Times Square. He gave Rzeznik his office as a dressing room, and remembers the lead singer looking out the window, through the lights and at the crowd below.

Rzeznik turned to Calderone, whom he first met in the mid-’80s at Buffalo State’s radio station, WBNY, and asked, “Do you believe this?”

Calderone recalls answering, “If you had told me when we were hanging at BNY that one day I’d be at MTV, and you guys would be huge, worldwide rock stars, and we’re going to actually do a production together on Dec. 31, 1999, no, I would have never believed that.”

As his fame rose, Rzeznik may never have lost his sense of wonder, but he also never quite captured his sense of self. Like his father, he drank hard, often, and to oblivion. His alcoholism plunged so deep that Rzeznik and Takac, who quit drinking around 2004, stopped talking, even as they lived and traveled on the same tour bus and performed shows together.

“Our heads were in such different places at that moment,” Takac said. “It’s not that we weren’t trying to communicate; it’s just that it was difficult to communicate for a plethora of reasons.

“I think part of that was a bit of a defense mechanism, because we knew we were doing this, we knew we were going to do it, we knew we were making it happen, and sometimes it was just best for us not to talk. … Sometimes it was just best for us to let things be what they were at that moment.”

At the London NYC on Nov. 16, 2014, Rzeznik drank until he blacked out. He woke up, his clothes still on, shards of glass around him.

Something pushed him to make a decision. He didn’t want this to happen again. He knew he was close to the edge. Did he want to take his last breath, or his last drink?

Rzeznik picked up the phone, called his manager, and as he recalls it, told him, “I’m not doing anything for the next three months. I’ve got to take care of this, because I’m going to die.”

Rzeznik had dabbled in forms of rehabilitation before: pills, psychiatry, therapy, steam baths, walking with horses. None worked. His drinking got worse, and he got into pills, too.

This time was different. “I went to a very serious place, where they don’t do yoga and massage,” Rzeznik said. “They concentrate on triangulating treatment, where it’s like therapy and 12 Step and some spiritual work.”

He stayed in rehab for three months. “I wish I could have stayed for six months,” he said. But when he got out, he felt ready to move forward, repair relationships, deal with issues from his past, make more music, and even start a family.

Today, Rzeznik attends AA meetings and keeps a sobriety calculator app on his phone. On Sept. 10 of this year, he opened it to show his stats: 3.81 years; 45.79 months; 1,395 days; 33,467 hours.

He’s honest about his struggles, and what it takes now to stay sober. He and Melina keep no alcohol in their house, though if they’re hosting a party, they’ll buy some (one hour before) and John will even serve it to guests (then walk away). When the party is over, the alcohol goes home with the guests.

When they’re among others who are drinking, they have code words that John can use to alert Melina if he’s feeling uncomfortable and needs to gracefully exit.

He manages the issue but won’t avoid the scenarios. “When I’m afraid of something, I’m going at it twice as hard,” Rzeznik said. “I don’t believe any fear can be conquered by avoiding it.”

“Daddy’s shoes!”

It’s an early October evening at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Lili Rzeznik is in her dad’s dressing room, pointing to a pair of black and brown high-tops perched next to a Sephora bag in a wardrobe case. She’s hears Daddy’s voice emanating from the stage below.

Rzeznik, Takac and their traveling band were running through soundcheck before a sold-out show here at the Ryman. Melina Rzeznik was upstairs with Lili, sitting in her husband’s dressing room, talking about his newfound life as a father.

“He’s a pushover!” said Melina, who is 41. “She knows how to get what she wants – from both of us, actually. John is very sensitive, emotional, loving, caring, unbelievably supportive. He wears his heart on his sleeve, especially for her. He just gets overwhelmed with love and happiness anytime he talks about her.”

Though she didn’t tell her husband this until after he got sober, John’s alcoholism had gotten so bad that Melina was ready to leave him. But after rehab worked and he stayed clean for a year, they made a different choice — one they hadn’t suspected would be an option. They decided to have a family, and move to New Jersey, where Melina’s mother now lives with them.

Lili was born in December 2016. Melina has a photo of her husband and then one-week-old daughter snuggling in bed, Lili swaddled, John sleeping. “He says to me all the time, ‘I never, ever knew what it felt like just to have somebody love me on their own,’ ” Melina said. “He is amazed at how much love he feels.”

Her voice cracks. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It just makes me happy for him to feel that, finally.”

About an hour earlier, just before taking the stage for soundcheck, John acknowledged that being a father keeps him making the right choices. “I think about my daughter when I’m doing stuff, and I want to see it through her eyes, and I want her to be proud of me, for what I do,” he said.

He reached for a tissue, dabbed a tear, and allowed a small smile.

Gusto – Goo Goo Dolls’ ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’ turns 20: From the Continental to the arena stage

By Jeff Miers

The late ’90s were a strange time for rock music.

Grunge had morphed into mostly horrible rap-metal. The mainstream was littered with over-singing divas like Celine Dion. Hip-hop was healthy, thanks to the likes of the Wu Tang Clan, though it was still reeling from the death of Tupac. Brit-pop was big, and some of it was pretty great, though much of it was far from inventive or groundbreaking.

What they were then calling “electronica,” and we now uniformly label EDM, was supposed to be driving the final nail into guitar-based rock music’s velvet-lined coffin. Country-pop was huge. R&B was awaiting a renaissance that would soon come.

The most interesting rock music was becoming almost avant garde in its ability to willfully twist tradition into new forms, a la Radiohead, Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips, among others.

What was a scruffy bar band from Buffalo with a Replacements fetish and only middling success on its resume to do? For the Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik, the answer was to finally slow down and focus enough on his craft to become the songwriter he longed to be. So one day, he dropped his acoustic guitar into a friendly open tuning – DAEAAE, from lowest string to highest – and out came the skeleton of “Name,” which would become the band’s breakthrough hit while simultaneously convincing Rzeznik that, despite his sometimes crippling misgivings and nagging self-doubt, he might be a songwriter of some stature after all.

“Name” was released in 1995 on the band’s “A Boy Named Goo” album, where it nestled up against songs that generally fit the band’s prior incarnation as an alternative rock band with punk-pop roots.

“Name” was a huge hit, and so one is comfortable assuming its creator felt a not inconsiderable amount of pressure to follow it up when it came time to hit the studio for the sessions that would ultimately yield “Dizzy Up the Girl,” the Goos’ sixth album overall, and their first made in the shadow of a huge mainstream hit.

Rzeznik delivered. Big time. And in the process, he set the band on the course it continues to follow to this day.

Most of those Replacements influences were gone. The roughshod act so many of us would gather to raise our beers to in the darkness of the old Continental was transformed into an uber-tight, sometimes slick unit that made friendly, eminently tuneful, mildly alternative rock music for people who quite likely had no idea who Paul Westerberg was. The Goo Goo Dolls became an arena-sized pop-rock band.

“Name” was a watershed, of course, and once it had broken, Rzeznik rode the current, in the process coming up with a batch of songs that would define not only his career, but the sound of mainstream alternative rock – for it was indeed both – for the next decade.

“Iris” was the one, the baby sister of “Name,” and a song that married an unsettling sense of yearning to an indelible hook, a melody of the sort that songwriters wait their whole lives for. It became a runaway hit. Happily, Rzeznik had loaded the album with songs boasting similar pop smarts and hook-infused muscle. “Broadway,” “Black Balloon,” “Slide,” “Dizzy” – all of these songs charted. The Goos were officially the biggest rock band to have emerged from Buffalo.

As the band comes to Shea’s Performing Arts Center for three sold-out shows Oct. 19 to 21, celebrating “Dizzy’s” 20th birthday, the album remains the group’s crowning achievement – a record that bridged the gap between alternative rock and the mainstream without sacrificing all of its integrity on the altar of pop success.

The taut, economical, emotional and undeniably tuneful nature of the album – as well as its trademark blend of acoustic and electric guitars, its pop-friendly veneer, and its earnest intelligence – could be heard echoed in the work of bands like Semisonic, Collective Soul, Live, Matchbox Twenty and the Wallflowers, all of whom would enjoy hits in the “Dizzy” mode.

The Goos made it under the wire in what we now know were the twilight hours of the major label music industry. It’s highly unlikely we will ever see a rock band from Buffalo selling more than 4 million copies of a single album again. Twenty years on, “Dizzy” remains a fitting testament to a tumultuous time in rock music. It built a bridge from the fringes to the mainstream. And once it had crossed that bridge, it burned it down.

Goo Goo Dolls’ ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’ turns 20: From the Continental to the arena stage


By Jeff Miers

Goo Goo Dolls bassist and co-founder Robby Takac has released a single, “Dyin’ Tonight,” written and recorded for the soundtrack to the upcoming indie horror flick, “Johnny Gruesome.” The film is based on the novel of the same name, by Buffalo-born author and film-maker Gregory Lamberson.

Takac wrote the tune – a snarling slab of punkish power-pop – along with Buffalo stalwarts, producer Armand Petri (10,000 Maniacs, Goo Goo Dolls, Sixpence None the Richer) and multi-instrumentalist Joe Rozler. Petri and Rozler also composed the score for the film, which, according to a news release, “tells the story of a murdered heavy metal rebel who returns from the grave for vengeance.”

The song was tracked at Takac’s GCR Recording Studios in Buffalo. The single is available now through streaming and digital download platforms. The film score is available as a separate CD and digital download.

Goo Goo Dolls’ Live Album, The Audience is That Way (The Rest of the Show) [Live], Vol. 2, On Sale 11/23

Event: BLACK FRIDAY 2018
Release Date: 11/23/2018
Format: LP
Label: Warner Bros.
Quantity: 3000
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release

The first vinyl release of a new live album capturing the band on its recent tours.

“Stay With You (Live)”/”Here Is Gone (Live)”/”Naked (Live)”/”Name (Live)”/”Black Balloon (Live)”/”Over and Over (Live)”/”Bringing on The Light (Live)”/”Come To Me (Live)”/”Let Love In (Live)”/”Boxes (Live)”

**There will be a digital version released at a later date, after the vinyl comes out**

Sound Digest – Goo Goo Dolls’ Robby Takac Talks Dizzy Up The Girl and Recent Tour

By Amanda Meyer

Can you believe songs like “Iris” and “Slide” by multi-platinum rockers, the Goo Goo Dolls, turned 20 years old this year? Dizzy Up the Girl turned 20 just last month and to commemorate that, the band has just embarked on a national tour. With its certified 4x platinum hit by the RIAA, “Iris,” Dizzy, a 4x platinum certified record, is a key piece of music for the band.

Aside from playing the album in full, the band will also play some deep cuts and other hits fans haven’t heard live in quite some time. A few weeks back, while practicing for the tour in New Jersey, I was able to chat with the Goo Goo Dolls’ bassist/vocalist, Robby Takac. Check out what Takac had to say about the last 20 years, the old and new music and what to expect on this tour. We can’t wait to see this show when it hits Beacon Theatre on October 15!

Can you believe this album is 20 years old?

I know, right? I can’t believe my daughter is six more or less that album is 20! It’s crazy.

Yeah, it’s crazy how it all went by so quickly, honestly. 

Yeah, I agree!

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of this album?

You know, we have had a pretty active relationship with a lot of this album. We play six songs from it pretty much every night. I’ve had an ongoing relationship with this record, but this format that we’re performing under this fall has really given us a chance to kind of visit a lot of the record that sort of wasn’t in that cycle. The format of the whole show has given us the ability to go even deeper into our catalog, probably more than we would have for a show.

With the format being different, we have the freedom to do a little bit more of that stuff. We’ve gone even deeper into the catalog than I think we had expected! You know, we’re not much of a band to look back. We try to look forward as much as we can, and I think that’s why we’ve managed to stick it out for over 30 years now. It’s all about what’s next! I think this process has really given us the chance to look back in a way we never really do. John [Rzeznik] and I sat down, and we talked our way through the album for an hour and a half. I don’t think we’ve ever done that, even when we were making it! It’s kind of cathartic, I think in general, just to do this whole process.

That’s really great to hear. Are there any songs that you’re excited to play on this tour that you haven’t played?

There’s this song called “Bullet Proof” that we haven’t played in years that I’m really excited to play. There’s a couple of my songs that we haven’t played live—maybe once or twice—which are making their way in; I’m excited that they get a rebirth! We’re doing some songs off of Superstar Car Wash, some songs off of Hold Me Up. We haven’t done songs off of Hold Me Up in god knows how long. It’s just going to be a fun night! Definitely, if you’re a seasoned fan, you’ll be pretty blown away by a lot of what you’re hearing that night.

That’s really cool! So a lot of people don’t know that you guys actually started off as a punk rock band. What inspired the change throughout the years?

I don’t think there was ever really an inspiration for a change so much. I think it was just growing up, making the next record, trying to do something a little bit further along than the last one was, which was especially important to John. He reaches out to places that are out of our comfort zone. You hope to drag some fans along with you, and it doesn’t necessarily always happen. I think in general, the growth has been organic enough. People have been growing up along with us. I think a lot of people have made the journey.

Of course. I know we’re about to backtrack into the past with this tour, but any chance of new music soon?

Oh yeah! We’ve got about a half dozen songs kind of bubbling up right now. We’ll be in recording probably as soon as this tour is finished up.

Love to hear that! Anything else you would like to add?

We’re just jazzed to play the Beacon again! It’s an amazing place. It’s not a place that a bunch of bums like us usually get to play, so it’s nice to be able to go and make that happen. I’m excited to bring this whole Dizzy show out to people. It’s going to be a little different than the average Goo Goo Dolls show. It’s a good time to celebrate a little bit more of the history of the band, too, and I think that’s what we’re looking to do! It’s exciting.

ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH – Goo Goo Dolls mark 20th anniversary of ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’ at sold-out Pageant show

By Daniel Durchholz

If Friday felt like 1998 all over again in certain sections of St. Louis, there was a reason.

Two musical acts — Ms. Lauryn Hill at Chaifetz Arena and the Goo Goo Dolls at the Pageant — were celebrating the 20th anniversary of their biggest-selling albums: Hill’s “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and the Goos’ “Dizzy Up the Girl,” each of them slamming tape-measure hits into the night like they were Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home runs.

For the Goos’ part, “Dizzy Up the Girl” was its breakthrough album, selling more than 4 million copies. It followed on the heels of the 1995 hit, “Name,” an acoustic ballad that transformed the Buffalo-bred band from an eastern echo of Minneapolis’ Soul Asylum and the Replacements to a radio-ready act with a sound of its own.

The Goos’ subsequent string of hit singles has proved long and strong enough to make mainstays Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac a perennial concert draw. The Pageant show was sold out.

The set-up for the show was for the Goos to play “Dizzy Up the Girl” in its entirety, followed by a set of favorites and deep cuts from other albums.

The “Dizzy” portion went off without a hitch, as guitarist Rzeznik and bassist Takac — backed by touring musicians Brad Femquist on guitar, Jim McGorman on keyboards and Craig Macintyre on drums — tore through the album’s 13 tracks pretty much without pause or too many variations from the original arrangements.

The highlights, of course, were the album’s hits: “Slide,” “Broadway” and especially “Iris,” all of which featured loud audience singalongs. For “Black Balloon,” the crowd batted around — what else? — black balloons.

The pair shared lead vocal duties, with Rzeznik singing the lion’s share of songs and Takac taking over for “January Friend,” “Amigone” and a couple of others. Neither said much during the set, although Takac did give a nod to City Museum, which he said he visited earlier in the day. “I’m pretty sure most of St. Louis is on acid,” he cracked about the place.

Rzeznik reminisced about playing under the Gateway Arch — that would have been at Fair St. Louis in 2007. He recalled “looking out at all those people and thinking, ‘This is a (expletive) cool place.’”

The album playback was entertaining, but felt a little rushed and perfunctory. It might have been nice if the band paused a bit between songs to put the material in context or talk about the making of the album.

Those concerns were answered in the second part of the show, which loosened up the format considerably.

It began with a clever but kind of goofy trick. Rzeznik performed a brief acoustic set, accompanying himself — literally — and even bantering with himself via a video screen. The prerecorded Rzeznik played guitar on “Better Days” while the live one sang, then they switched roles for “Can’t Let Go.”

The band rejoined him and the screen was wheeled off as the Goos reeled off tunes from albums including “Superstar Car Wash,” “A Boy Named Goo” and others.

Rzeznik recalled writing “Name,” the song that changed everything for the band, “sitting on a dirty, filthy sofa that all of our deadbeat friends slept on” when he and Takac lived together in Buffalo.

A nice moment occurred when Rzeznik held up a fan’s sign that said the fan had beaten cancer and was “so alive because of you.” The band responded with “So Alive,” from 2016’s “Boxes” — the newest song played all night.

The encore split the difference between hits and deep cuts with “Big Machine,” a song that charted in 2002, and “Flat Top,” a rocking album track from “A Boy Named Goo.”

“Dizzy Up the Girl” may have been the driving force behind the show, but the second set actually did a better job in showing what the band has to offer 20 years on from its biggest smash.

Set list:




“January Friend”

“Black Balloon”

“Bullet Proof”


“All Eyes on Me”

“Full Forever”

“Acoustic #3”


“Extra Pale”

“Hate This Place”

“Better Days”

“Can’t Let It Go”

“Two Days in February”

“Fallin’ Down”

“Lucky Star”

“Stop the World”


“So Alive”


“Another Second Time Around”

“There You Are”


“Big Machine”

“Flat Top”

The Griffin – Back on Broadway: The Goo Goo Dolls return home for the “Dizzy Up The Girl” 20th Anniversary Tour

Adam Duke
Editor in Chief

The biggest musical act possibly ever to hail from Buffalo comes home Friday, Oct. 19 through Sunday, Oct. 21. The Goo Goo Dolls return to Shea’s Performing Arts Center 20 years removed from their release of “Dizzy Up The Girl” to perform the record in its entirety, plus an additional set of surprises.

“We’re playing a whole bunch of songs we haven’t played in a long time,” said bassist Robby Takac. “Which I think is pretty awesome. I guess going out on a theater tour like this, I would say probably 80 percent of the shows are sold out already, which is pretty exciting, and playing the whole “Dizzy” record, it’s kind of crazy. We’ve never done anything like that before, so it’ll be a new experience for us, too.”

Takac and frontman Johnny Rzeznik kicked off the tour in Phoenix, Ariz. this past Sunday, Sept. 30. “Dizzy Up The Girl,” released on Sept. 22, 1998, sold more than 6 million albums worldwide, going 4x platinum with five top-10 singles.

“It seems like a lifetime ago, but it seems like yesterday,” Takac said. “A lot’s happened since we put that record out, for sure, but I think we’ve have a pretty good run at it since then and there’s a lot of folks who are still with us, enjoying what we do, coming out to the shows and such, so I think it’s going to be great.”

They were scheduled to perform at Shea’s on Friday and Saturday, but added Sunday’s show as well, following a cancelation of their Toronto show at the Rebel Complex due to unforeseen circumstances.
At last year’s show at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Rzeznik said that it’s always a bigger challenge playing for the home crowd in Buffalo.

“Anywhere else you play, you might recognize a person or two when you’re there playing,” Takac said. “In Buffalo, it quite literally happens numerous times a song, where you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, I haven’t seen that guy, Oh, my God, I owe him 20 bucks.’ There’s all of this other stuff that’s going through your head as you’re playing.”

Having been around for 32 years, the Goo Goo Dolls have seen fans of all ages, from grandparents, to kids they refer to as “carseat hostages,” as they grew up listening to their songs and they don’t know a world without the band.

“I was talking to this lady at a meet and greet the other day and she brought her kid and her kid was maybe 17- punk rock kid- he was just so unbelievably blown away,” Takac said. “His mother turned him onto our earlier records and it was like a gateway for him. And now he’s along for the ride. It’s fun to see.”

He added that the older the pair gets, the tougher it gets physically to perform, despite not drinking 18 beers and staying up until 6 a.m. every day like they used to. Additionally, he said it is difficult to fit in in a world where the radio is full of mumble rap.

“We’ve seen a lot of stuff come and go,” Takac said. “And for us you just try to stay consistent and explore some new avenues, and like I said hope people come along with you for the ride.”

Takac, a West Seneca East and Medaille College alumnus, is excited to return to his hometown for the three-show series.

“Obviously, the Buffalo crowds are great. They’ve been with us for an awfully long time. We’ve had a pretty great relationship with Western New York over the last 20 years,” he said. “And this’ll be a pretty special moment for us. I’m glad we can do a couple nights in a row in Buffalo, too. It’s going to be a great experience for everybody.”


By Jonathan Graham

With a career spanning thirty-two years (and counting), The Goo Goo Dolls have, without a doubt, become one of the most definitive and successful bands in the American Alternative-Rock genre. Marking the 20th anniversary of their multi-million selling release ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’ the band have embarked on a world tour of sell-out shows and during their recent stop in London, UK Guitar Interactive Magazine editor, Jonathan Graham spoke with the band’s frontman John Rzeznik about his reflections on the classic album, thoughts on the music industry today, plus we take a closer look at Rzeznik’s live rig for the European leg of the tour.

Formed in 1986 in Buffalo, New York, the band has since achieved monumental success with over 12 million album sales and 19 top ten singles worldwide. The group (originally named Sex Maggot) first began as a product of the 80’s era wave of ‘hard and fast’ underground punk rock before transitioning into their more recognizable melodic alternative sound. Their first self-titled release was released under Mercenary Records in 1987, but was picked up the following year by the larger Celluloid Records.

The first few years consisted of relatively moderate success for the 3-piece punk trio, with significant activity on various underground music circuits and independent radio. However, the band’s 1995 release, A Boy Named Goo, was sonically a stark contrast from the band’s prior releases. Trading in ripping guitar riffs and shouty vocals for a sound more infectiously melodic, the band achieved commercial success with their acoustic ballad-esque single, “Name” in 1995.

This shift toward a more mainstream sound undoubtedly angered many of the band’s early followers. Frontman John Rzeznik once recalled receiving a rather hostile letter from a frustrated fan in response to this shift.

“It began, “’You suck,” Rzeznik said. “Name” sucks. You sold out, big-time. I used to like you, but now I hate you, and I’m getting rid of all your records. Signed, Indie Punk Rock Guy.’”

Despite the initial opposition from prior fans, it was this newfound sound and success that ultimately paved the way for beloved hits to come such as, “Iris,” “Slide,” “Sympathy,” and more.

“I’ve always played the acoustic guitar, but I finally got to a point where I felt the material I wrote on acoustic was good enough to bring to the band,” Rzeznik explained in a 1998 interview with Guitar World Acoustic. “I’m not as afraid of bringing new styles of music to them anymore, and I’m not trying so hard to be punk, or whatever we were…I’m not afraid of being criticised anymore,” he said.

This shift is perhaps indicative of Rzeznik’s and the band’s prolific growth in both musicianship and songwriting. (consider the lyrics of “Messed Up” – 1987 compared to “Name” – 1995, for example).

Messed up, yeah

Messed up, yeah

Messed up, yeah

Messed – up – messed (x4)

–    “Messed Up” (1987)


And scars are souvenirs you never lose

The past is never far

Did you lose yourself somewhere out there?

Did you get to be a star?

And don’t it make you sad to know that life

Is more than who we are

–    “Name” (1995)

“A lot of punk bands paint themselves into a corner with a set of hard-and-fast rules that they can’t stray away from,” Rzeznik said. “Only the Ramones can get away with making the same record seventeen times.”

According to Rzeznik, this shift carried with it the resolve to create more meaningful art from which he often drew from his past experiences when writing.

Rzeznik’s formative years were not void of strife by any means. He was born in 1965 as a product of working-class America, a strict Catholic upbringing and a blue-collar polish migrant family. Raised in Buffalo’s East Side Polish neighbourhood, his writing often reflects on the struggle he both experienced and witnessed growing up. Notably, “Broadway” from ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’ is a pretty good example of this. Furthermore, Rzeznik attributed a great deal of his motivation for success to his experiences during his blue-collar upbringing.

“When I was young, my dad used to take me down to the local bar, prop me up on the barstool, order a drink for himself and a soda and chips for me,” he said in a 1998 interview. “He’d give me a quarter for the pinball machine and sit there and drink. I’d look around and see all these kids who just turned 18, and they were hanging out there, sitting in the same chairs as their fathers. When they were old enough to drink with their dads, they took his place at the bar, carrying on the tradition.”

Rzeznik’s father passed away in 1981, and his mother passed away soon after the following year, leaving him to be raised by his four older sisters before moving to uptown.

“That got me away from the environment that killed my father,” he said. “He could never rise above it, never see beyond it. He got drunk every day.”

Today, Rzeznik still clings to his blue-collar past. In the band’s early years, he admitted that he ‘was always one step away from going back to the plumbing job he held in his teens.’ Now though, with no threat of returning to the working class, Rzeznik reflects on it creatively with the intent to inspire others with a very genuine sense of hope and encouragement.

The multi-platinum, four-time Grammy-nominated band’s latest release is a 10-track live album ‘The Audience is This Way,’  recorded on the band’s recent tours. Overseen by John Schimke, and produced and mixed by John Rzeznik, Chris Szczech and Brad Fernquist, the live release is filled with group’s timeless hits such as “Iris”, “So Alive” and “Slide” and boasts never-before-released live concert recordings of the ten tracks spanning the Goo Goo Doll’s full discography.

‘The Audience is This Way’ is out now via Warner Bros. Records for digital download and streaming. However, if you are looking to get your hands on a physical copy, it is only available as an exclusive limited edition (only 3,000 copies) black vinyl at indie-retail stores nationally as part of Record Store Day Crawl.

“I am incredibly excited to share this album in its entirety with our fans,” said Rzeznik.

Click the link to watch an interview and see a photo set – 

Kataklizmic Design – REVIEW: Goo Goo Dolls Celebrate 20 Years With a Sold Out Show at The Van Buren (9-30-18)

PHOENIX — The Valley of the Sun was transported back in time to the halcyon 90’s Sunday night as Goo Goo Dolls kicked off their “Dizzy Up the Girl” Anniversary Tour at The Van Buren. The four-time platinum certified album contains thirteen songs, four of which made it into the top 40. As the tour name suggests, Dizzy Up The Girl was the primary focus of the show, taking up the entirety of the first of two sets from the band, being played from beginning to end. It certainly did not feel like two decades had passed since its release, as thick crowds of people covered every square inch of the venue for this sold out show.

There was a tangible current of excitement in the air, and people were becoming antsy and murmuring to one another about their impatience for this much anticipated show to start. Each time a new melody would boom from the speakers, or a guitar was tweaked backstage, the excitement could be felt as it was mistaken for the beginning of the show.

The lights dim and the stage goes dark. A melody begins to play as lights begin to dance in unison to the music across the platform, engulfing the instruments in various colors as vocalist Johnny Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac, and current touring members: guitarist Brad Fernquist, keyboardist Jim McGorman, and drummer Craig Macintyre moved slowly towards them. A sea of light from cell phones rose up from the crowd to capture the initial moments of the show. As each found their way to their place on stage they wasted no time heading straight into the opening chords of the albums first song “Dizzy.”

Following an intense performance of the first song, they effortlessly flowed into the following song on the album which also happens to be the second most popular song, coming in at #9 on Billboard’s Top 100 Pop list from 1992-2012. The beginning notes of “Slide” glided out of the speakers and it was like a fire had been lit inside the venue. Screams and cheers rang out as Rzeznik sang the words that any true Goo Goo Dolls fan would know. Goo Goo Dolls exuded a palpable “rockstar” energy. At points during the song, the audience was so jazzed up and into the music that they began to drown out the band with their singing. Not wanting to be outdone, this caused a chain reaction of events as the three progressed powerfully through the next seven songs on the album without any breaks in between.

While talking about the anniversary of the album, Rzeznik tells the audience about the iconic girl on the album cover, saying that everyone wants to know who she is. Thinking there would be an intricate story involved, he surprises everyone by saying they have no idea who she is, other than the assistant of the photographer despite casting models for the shoot. Even without a great story, the crowd loved it and snapped right back into their trance as they sang their hearts out from song to song, dancing with the strangers next to them and thrusting their drinks and hands in the air. This was the general reaction throughout their set, with a vibrant light show and dozens of black latex balloons floating around during another hit single, “Black Balloon.” Set one was brought to a close at the conclusion of the last song on the album, “Hate This Place.”

“Thank you! Hang on a sec, we’ll be right back,” Rzeznik said as the band left the stage for a short intermission. Before long, the musicians were back on stage ready to keep the party going for the second part of their set. Already having played thirteen songs, the band proceeded to double the experience and play thirteen more for set two, entitled “Deep Cuts”. Fans went down several paths of memory lane while the band played some of their biggest hits outside of their most popular album. “Better Days”, “Can’t Let It Go”, and “Two Days in February” were all played with acoustic guitar, evoking a range of emotions from their followers.

The remainder of the show was more amped up, wanting to bring the audience back to full volume before they ended with a two-song encore including “Big Machine” and a mindblowing performance of “Flat Top”. Right before that, though, Takac addressed the audience a final time with a simple “Thank you guys for coming out to celebrate with us tonight. Truly truly truly means a lot,” no doubt with mutual feelings in the hearts of fans. As the show ended after 26 songs, people could be overheard talking all around about how wonderful the show was and how much it meant to them to be there for it. For over twenty years the Goo Goo Dolls have brought several beautiful songs to life, and if this tour has anything to say about them, no amount of time can weaken the love their fans have for them, or their music.

Click this link for some great photos!