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.
“All Eyes on Me”
“Hate This Place”
“Can’t Let It Go”
“Two Days in February”
“Stop the World”
“Another Second Time Around”
“There You Are”