Rappler.com~Goo Goo Dolls thrill PH fans in first ever Manila concert

This may sound a bit odd, I’ve noticed from being in the photo pit so often, that there is an energy you can feel from over your shoulder. And not just in the form of screaming fans, but there’s an invisible force and it varies greatly from show to show. You can’t see it but you know it’s there. You don’t look back, because mostly you’re focused on your camera settings and the activity on the stage, where the energy is also reflected in the performers. And the force was palpable when the Goo Goo Dolls, hailing from Buffalo, New York, brought their rock style to the other side of the globe to Manila for the first time.

Bass player, Robby Takac, jokingly explained to the crowd why it took them so long to make it here, “We just wanted to make sure we were very well-practiced, so we took 30 years and were all practiced up for you guys.”

Exuberance was in the air as the near-capacity crowd waited in eager anticipation for the event to kick off last Saturday night, February 11 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. And the dynamic duo of John Rzeznik and Robby Takac, the two remaining original members, did not disappoint with a string of chart-topping tracks. Impressively, the technical consistency of an often complex layered sound was fantastic, which can be tricky to pull off live. John’s voice, you could argue, has improved with age, there were no hiccups or hesitations, all sung with a rich, unmistakable quality that you don’t come across too often.

They’ve been around for over 3 decades, forming in 1986, a long period of time in the music business, or in any business for that matter, and at this concert they showed us why. This tour is in support of their 11th studio album, Boxes, and remarkably none of the songs came off as stale or pretentious, still a fresh out of the box (pun intended) atmosphere. One of the pillars to their secret of longevity, is a no-nonsense approach. There was no over-the-top lighting schematic, highly polished video presentations or elaborate stage props, other than some confetti cannons and oversized balloons to finish up the concert, they let the music do the talking. It was just a bunch of folks sharing their music, really what a concert should be. Yes, it was an inspired and passionate show that delighted everyone in attendance, lasting for almost two hours, but it was the dynamic stage presence of John and Robby combined that caught your attention.

As John so eloquently introduced Robby, “and my partner for the last ten million years…”

Obviously feeding off each other’s energy, they often seemed to be functioning as one. John for the most part was stationary, front and center at the mic stand on lead vocals, with gentle flowing movements, often swapping between electric and acoustic guitar. Robby on the other hand, frantically moved about the stage, darting from left to right. He handled the bass guitar as though it were an extension of his body, all the while remarkably never missing a beat. John may be the epitome of cool, with his ageless handsome looks, flowing locks and dimpled chin while Robbie sports the disheveled, just-rolled-out-of-bed look, even performing the entire night in his socks. They are just at opposite ends of the spectrum which complement each other extremely well.

Usually, a bass guitarist doesn’t move much at all, a rhythmic sway or a melodic pattern, keeping the beat along with the drummer, Craig Macintyre. But Robby didn’t stay still for a nano second; he performed with a unique high energy style and passion like you’ve never seen before. Singing background vocals on most tracks, but he’s really the second lead vocalists and took the spotlight position on a few songs from their early catalog and “Free of Me” on the latest record. Also interacting with the fans, he fired up the crowd when called for, which didn’t take much encouragement, and touching base with the other members of the band, clowning around with the guitarist, Brad Fernquist or scruffing up the hair of the keyboardist, Korel Tunador .

Before the show began, I went backstage to get a drink of water, and noticed some commotion near the dressing rooms, with a slight burning smell in the air. There were some emergency personnel there, but no one was panicking and everything seemed under control so I just went on about my business.

Later during the show, John addressed the crowd with a story that seemed told just for a punch line, “We had a little fire backstage, all my pants were burned. This is a true story.” he said, not sure if anyone was believing him at this point, “I walked out of the dressing room, when we came back, all of my pants were on fire. So if anybody wants to donate a pair of pants to a guy,” as he cleared his throat as someone in the crowd offered their pants, “I’m not taking your pants, so please keep your pants on, as they say.” the arena erupted with laughter.

John spoke to the crowd on a handful of occasions, at times with a self deprecating manner and relatable banter with a genuine presence that made everyone feel right at home. As he introduced the song “Name”, he said, “This song was really the song we were going to, I was going to quit playing music because we couldn’t make any money doing it. And my wife wanted to have a real life, which to me sounded f–king horrible” as the crowd responded in laughter, he continued, “So I had the ultimatum put to me so I immediately sat down on the sofa and I was like, I’ve gotta write a f–king song, I’ve gotta write a f-cking song, I’ve gotta write a song and this is what came out.” And he humorously finished up with, “She’s gone, the song’s still here.”

The set list had an easy flow to it with a mixture of their incredible mega hits, also songs off the new record, an acoustic solo of “Sympathy” and even a cover song originally by Supertramp, “Give a Little Bit.” This was one of those concerts you really got your money’s worth, most bands today don’t play over 20 songs at a show, never mind 24 tracks. And it’s twenty-something songs of quality material, hit after hit, which speaks volumes about the the level of talent here. “Slide” was a fan favorite which incited a sing-along that echoed loudly throughout the venue, “Iris” may be one of those songs you need to experience performed live before you die.

Goo Goo Dolls created a well-executed, captivating performance with the combination of these two artists possessing juxtaposing styles that really draws your attention. With the admiration of their longtime fans being a testament to the quality of their work, they provided everything the audience came to see. John’s vocals became a catalyst for something special, along with animated antics of Robby, and a passion that was self-evident from all the band members. It’s one of the more memorable concert performances you’ll experience, well worth checking out. Incredible and inspiring music, it would be my pleasure to cover them again, well done from start to finish. – Rappler.com


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