By MANTA KLANGBOONKRONG
THREE DECADES ON, AMERICAN ALT-ROCK’S GOO GOO DOLLS ARE STOPPING THE CLOCK.
American alt-rock band the Goo Goo Dolls were finally on a Bangkok stage on Tuesday and it wasn’t long before frontman John Rzeznik took a mild snipe at his homeland’s new alt-right president.
“Everyone looks beautiful tonight,” the 51-year-old singer-guitarist said. “It’s great to see a lot of happy people here tonight, because we’re so miserable back home – at least half of us!”
One of the most popular rock bands of the ’90s added an extra half-hour to their tardiness before finally arriving onstage at Central Plaza Lat Phrao’s BCC Hall for their long-overdue Thailand debut.
It wasn’t quite a full house, but the fans, both foreign and local, knew enough to get there early to be close to the stage when the Dolls launched into a string of folk-laced rock hits and new music from “Boxes”, their latest album.
Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac, the remaining original members, had at their backs guitarist Brad Fernquist, drummer Craig Macintyre and Korel Tunador on keyboards and sax.
They kicked off the show with “Over and Over”, the lead-off single from “Boxes” before Rzeznik greeted the crowd with “Hello! How are you doing Bangkok?”
More upbeat tracks followed – “Long Way Down”, “Slide”, “Big Machine” and “Rebel Heart” – and then a battery of hits, including “Here is Gone” and “Black Balloon”.
Rzeznik handed the microphone over to Takac, who delivered “Smash” and “Bringing on the Light” with tremendous enthusiasm and energy.
Next was the acoustic ballad “Name”, their breakthrough hit from the 1995 double-platinum album “A Boy Named Goo”.
“It’s been more than 20 years since this song came out,” Rzeznik said. “It was our first song that got played on the radio. Robby and I were still boys, touring around in a van. And now when I hang out I get young girls coming up to me saying, ‘My mom loves your band!’ So here it is, and tell your mom I said Hi!”
Rzeznik sang it with his famously raspy voice, yet it felt as soft as memory’s pillows.
That was followed by an extended series of Goo Goo Dolls landmarks – the piano-clad pop rock of “So Alive”, the grungy “Naked”, an acoustic version of “Sympathy”, “Dizzy” done with punk flair, and the pop-rock ballad “Better Days”.
Takac took the mic once again to sing the rocking “Already There” from 1993’s “Superstar Car Wash”, another commercially and critically successful album.
Rzeznik swung back for “Come to Me”, “The Pin” and “Stay With You”, before the band cracked into their biggest hit of all, “Iris”, which had the fans singing along at the top of their lungs.
“Broadway” from the same album – “Dizzy Up the Girl” in 1998 – concluded the show, Rzeznik bowing off with “Thank you and good night! We hope to be back and see your beautiful faces here again very soon.”
“Very soon” proved to be a couple of minutes. The encore was a powerful rendition of “Long Way Home” from their latest album, the final chords hammered out in a shower of white confetti and big balloons.
Like most bands with large repertoires of tunes to choose from, the Goo Good Dolls made good use of diverse sounds to reflect 11 studio albums across a 30-year career. The set list riveted the attention and felt like a musical journey.
Takac doesn’t get credit as frontman, but his showmanship and musicianship more than justified his starring role onstage. Without his energetic delivery, the show wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun.
Rzeznik, with his high spirits and playfulness, kept the proceedings both intimate and casual, constantly engaging the fans and pulling them in closer. His voice was as fresh and powerful as ever, and there’s nothing more thrilling than seeing a musician who enjoys playing his music and giving his all in a show, especially after three decades.