By FRANK MALERBA
The scent of BBQs grilling, pool parties, and family road trips, all tell-tale signs that summer is in bloom. Add nights at Jones Beach, one of the east coast’s most famous beaches, enjoying some great music, to the list, and it is a season to remember. Such is the scene each and every year on Long Island when a great lineup of artists grace the stage of the amphitheater now going by the name Northwell Health at Jones Beach. Sure, many artists have come and gone, but how many are synonymous with the location so much that it is almost a given that they will be back each and every summer? Dating back nearly two decades, when they first debuted at the theater on the rain drenched night of August 20th in 1999, Goo Goo Dolls are a Jones Beach tradition. In fact, they have practically played every year since, making them almost honorary Long Islanders!
Keeping with that trend, on the eve of Sunday,August 13, 2017, they returned to Jones Beach on their Long Way Home Tour. A tour which launched July 14th at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA, dates are lined up now through mid-September. Bringing along Phillip Phillips for the ride, Goo Goo Dolls were ready to go as they settled into the comfortable, familiar confines of Jones Beach.
Known to bring along a variety of different artists through the years ranging from Vanessa Carlton to Third Eye Blind, to more recently Collective Soul, the inclusion of Phillip Phillips was an enticing one. Still quite young, at only 26 years of age, Phillips first rose to fame after being crowned the winner of American Idol’s eleventh season back in 2012. Making a splash with his hit debut album, The World from the Side of the Moon, that same year, 2014’s Behind the Light saw a much more mature Phillips take the limelight. Even still, Phillips is growing as a songwriter and could not have been more gracious for the crowd’s attention as he took the stage first.
Immediately grabbing attention, Phillips and his band showed they are much more Rock-n-Roll than Pop as they dished out songs that included “Raging Fire,” “Magnetic,” and “Where We Came From.” Engaging the audience and singing affectionately, Phillips made the most of his set playing other songs like “Don’t Tell Me” before big hits “Home” and “Gone, Gone, Gone.” Strumming his acoustic guitar and creating the feel of a quaint campfire singalong during the fan-favorites, there was a warm feeling that flowed through the air as many joined in during the chorus lines. A talented singer and songwriter, Phillips is currently at work on his third album, and with that, he has so much promise for a lengthy, successful career in modern Folk Rock.
With Phillips’ set concluded, the venue was now packed as everyone anxiously awaited the return of Goo Goo Dolls. As stated, a modern day summer tradition, one is probably wondering, what could warrant wanting to go to see Goo Goo Dolls yet again? Or is the show the same as years past? Well, not exactly. In fact, this veteran Rock band originally from Buffalo, New York have made a living off adapting and evolving throughout their career.
Put together by long-time friends John Rzeznik (vocals, guitar) and Robby Takac (vocals, bass), they started off as a Punk Rock band being as loud and obnoxious as they possibly could. Then, as time went by, they grew as people as well as a band and began to harness influences such as The Replacements into their sound as heard vividly on their 1993 album Superstar Car Wash. A sign of the future, as the mid-90s hit, Goo Goo Dolls hit as well as 1995’s A Boy Named Goo skyrocketed up charts, garnering the band’s full transition into the mainstream radio Rock spectrum.
Finding their stride as songwriters, the true stardom would hit a few years later when the band’s most successful album ever, 1998’s Dizzy Up the Girl, peaked all around the world. Did they fade like many other Alternative Rock acts of the time? No, Goo Goo Dolls continued to evolve, pumping out one hit record after another. Now with a music industry in transition, Rzeznik and Takac make the move to keep their sound fresh, collaborating with others and dipping into the popular EP release format. Releasing the EP You Should Be Happy on May 12th via Warner Bros. Records, they offer fans music as quickly as it is being made. Why is this significant to their live shows? Well, it allows them an opportunity to have new music as they hit the road, making the shows that much more interesting. With that, the Goo Goo Dolls came to Jones Beach ready to offer something new.
Starting around 9 PM, with darkness completely engulfing the night, a brighter than the sun light show blinded the audience as Rzeznik, Takac, and their talented live band – Brad Fernquist on guitar/mandolin, Korel Tunador on keyboards/guitar/saxophone, as well as Craig Macintyre on drums – took the stage beginning with the new rocker “Tattered Edge / You Should Be Happy.” Immediately inspiring cheers, the crowd noise reached a higher level as they went into “Home.” A powerful introduction, Rzeznik welcomed the audience, expressing how happy they were to be back at Jones Beach before causing more excitement with the big hit “Slide.”
Early on, there seemed to be a common thread; this show was going to rock hard. Afterall, at their core, Goo Goo Dolls have always been a Hard Rock band. A fact most new age Goo fans have embraced by now, the set went off without a hitch as they went into songs like “Big Machine,” 2016’s “Over and Over,” and the mesmerizing acoustic-laden “Black Balloon.” Always an equal partnership between Rzeznik and Takac, the time came for the rowdy bassist to take on lead vocals and he did just that with “Lucky Star,” “Free of Me,” and, later on, “Already There.” Barefoot and having a blast, Takac was a Punk Rock spark like always.
From there, Rzeznik would speak to the audience in between songs being candid about who he is and what Goo Goo Dolls are. Admitted they were in fact more of an Indie band in their past, he said it all changed with “Name,” and with that, they went into the signature tune. Still as adored as the day it hit big on the radio, “Name” featured tight vocals as Rzeznik offered in years past. A unique voice all his own, he kept his tone strong all night. Softening for tracks like “Come to Me” and “Acoustic # 3,” he revving up for others like “Flat Top” and seldom heard live oldie “We Are the Normal.”
Speaking of pumped up, it would be remiss not to mention that Goo Goo Dolls have always steered clear of alienating their audiences through the years with unnecessary political jargon. Although, Rzeznik, much like the rest of the country, cannot ignore the troubles we face, and much of the lyrical content in songs like the aforementioned “Flat Top” are as relevant as ever. Furthermore, the heartfelt “Better Days” really resonated loudly as Rzeznik sang the words such as “I wish everyone was loved tonight, and somehow stop this endless fight … ’cause tonight’s the night the world begins again.” This was not a call to one side or the other, in fact, Rzeznik specifically said it does not matter what side you are on, offering a unbiased and refreshing outlook to the troubles we face.
At this point, everyone’s emotions were running high and any sense of anger felt prior to the show was erased, even if it was just for the time the band played. Keeping those spirits high, Goo Goo Dolls would wrap up the set with “Broadway,” “Long Way Home,” and mega hit “Iris.” Having the crowding singing, it does not matter how one relates to the words, it is about the power the anthem proves. Ending with yet more loud cheering, the power surge momentarily fizzled out as Goo Goo Dolls bid good night. Returning, the heavenly vibe of “Boxes” closed out the night as Rzeznik walked about the stage singing to the crowd as massive balloons floated down, concluding another memorable Goo Goo Dolls concert experience.
Overall, the show was as entertaining as always, but thanks to Goo Goo Dolls’ ability to keep it fresh, it did not seem like a replay of the years prior. The interjection of the new music and some older back tracks, along with the candid, yet non-polarizing words of Rzeznik, created a sense of unity. The bottomline, most go to a concert to forget about the world for a while, but also to be reminded of the simple things in life. That said, Goo Goo Dolls captured a moment in time that once again sent Long Islanders away smiling and hoping for better days.
Click link for a photo set: Goo Goo Dolls Bring Joy to Jones Beach