By Stacey Sherman
ROCHESTER HILLS — Blankets, tarps and umbrellas covered the lawn at the Meadow Brook Amphitheatre on Thursday, Aug. 3. But the dripping fans caught in the storm before the Goo Goo Dolls’ Long Way Home Tour stop there were not disappointed once the setting sun finally broke through the threatening sky.
A 20-minute weather delay caused opener Phillip Phillips to play a truncated set, but the Season 11 “American Idol” winner and his four-piece band got in a solid 25 minutes, including the hits “Home” and “Gone, Gone, Gone” while the long lines of people finally being allowed inside tried (and failed) to find a dry place to sit.
The Clash’s “Up In Heaven” blasted over the house speakers and the Goo Goo Dolls blasted onto the stage with energy that hearkened back to the group’s days in Buffalo as a post-punk band of the early 90s. It was a trip down memory lane for the near-capacity crowd and a reminder of why the Goos have managed to stay relevant for more than 30 years.
The group rocked into “Tattered Edge/You Should Be Happy” from its recently released EP and continued through a 100-minute, 22-song show that stretched from lesser-known early tracks such as “Flat Top” to tunes that are stuck in everyone’s heads from the Goos’ heyday.
The stellar guitar playing and vocals of John Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac were backed by their three-piece touring band, individually set up on small risers on an otherwise spare stage. Eight light towers of varying size placed behind the band changed color to set the mood, and directional spotlights switched between the more subtle acoustic moments to the laser-like effect that pierced through the crowd during “Long Way Home.”
Rzeznik bonded with the crowd from the start, acknowledging it with a hearty, “What’s up Detroit? Well, we made it. We’re going to have a good time as long as we’re here. This ain’t no (expletive) around! This is Deee-troit!” The audience proved up to the task, singing along and fist-pumping to the anthemic “Over And Over” and batting around the requisite balloons during “Black Balloon.”
Takac took over lead vocals on four songs in two back-to-back sections, and it marked a definite departure from the smooth, familiar tones Rzeznik provides on the majority of the band’s Top 40 hits. The bassist’s raspy yell served as a reminder of the Goos origins as a punk band, as he delved into the back catalog for “January Friend,” “Already There” and “Bringing On The Light.” It was the boundless energy and elastic facial expressions that set Takac apart on stage; He raced around barefoot, hair flying about his face, high kicking and mugging to the audience, often disappearing off of one side of the stage, only to reappear (sometimes a bit creepily) from the other side, but never missing a note on any of his sticker-covered bass guitars.
Rzeznik had his fair share of guitar changes, switching back and forth between more than a dozen acoustic and electric models throughout the night. Fan favorites “Slide,” “Better Days,” “Broadway” and “Here Is Gone” all got their due, along with the current single, “Use Me,” before which Rzeznik quipped, “Please hold your pee. This might be the best song you’ve ever heard.”
Rzeznik also told anecdotes before playing several acoustic songs, including his struggle to get sober in “Sympathy” and how “Come To Me” has become a wedding song for many people. He also recalled playing “Name” for the first time outside of Buffalo at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit.
In fact, both Goos founders seemed to have a soft spot in their hearts for the Motor City, but Rzeznik’s became especially mushy as he shared a gift he’d been given backstage — a onesie for his seven-month-old daughter bearing the word “Detroit-ish,” which he said would make her “look like a total tough guy. I’m not going to (expletive) with her!”
The Goos’ main set ended with “Iris,” and the appreciative crowd pulled out its cell phones to light up the night during the encore of “Boxes.” Rzeznik and Takac may have grown older, but they haven’t outgrown their love of playing music for people. The Goos have evolved into an adult-oriented rock band, and it’s taken its fans along for the dizzying ride.