Written by DJ Astrocreep and Sabrina Ramdoyal
Another night in Manchester for a first time seeing Goo Goo Dolls beckoned. Whilst I thought about quite how much of a sweatbox the venue normally is for a sellout crowd, never mind during the current heatwave, a first chance to see how Goo Goo Dolls fare in a live setting, outside of the obvious ‘Iris’, is worth it and I head off for the quick jaunt over.
We have a single support band in The Xcerts, a three-piece power pop outfit from Aberdeen. We don’t get much in terms of talking from them, as they bustle from song to song, with a brief thanks for the headliners for bringing them on the tour. They perform well as quite a tight act.
I’m kind of torn over their music though. Whilst I doubt I would be the immediate target audience, I knew a few of their early bits were closer to post-hardcore and so was expecting something closer to that than what came across to me as fairly bland indie. There was a distinct lack of any kind of edge to the music which lulled me almost into apathy, while the applause from a usually very appreciative audience in Manchester was somewhat muted, to say the least. The crowd did seem to warm to them slightly as they got further into the set, but the low level of applause at the end of the set was an indication that they didn’t go down so well. They did, however, perform their tracks well, so that balance between being good at what they do was hit, while they just didn’t seem to appeal in the main.
This was in complete contrast to Goo Goo Dolls taking to the stage though, as the crowd immediately come to life, singing away loudly from the start. It was also refreshing to see that while mobile phones occasionally came out, my view wasn’t dominated by them, as is too often the case now.
As early as the end of the second track, Johnny acknowledges the crowd, before an audience member cheekily shouts out at him, with Johnny asking if he had been asked to bend over, before – with a grin – saying he would stop, that it was the wrong city to fuck about in, which brings smiles from around the audience. It’s precisely this kind of professionalism and ease that comes with the band celebrating their 22nd anniversary this year that makes the atmosphere so good, with Johnny later taking the time to say that last he played Manchester, he fully expected to be apologising for Donald Trump, before acknowledging we have our own in someone who looks like Ed Sheeran’s dad in a nod to Boris Johnson, which goes down well with the capacity crowd.
The band perform well throughout the set, bringing the noise with 21 tracks, ranging from early crowd pleaser ‘Slide’ to ‘Free of Me’, ‘Over and Over’ and ‘Bringing on the Light’ before finishing the main set with hit single ‘Iris’.
The crowd are full of life despite the sweltering conditions, singing along happily, dancing away to the songs and making a fantastic atmosphere, which in turn seems to energise the band, as bassist and co-vocalist Robby can’t keep still, while Johnny is another energiser bunny himself. The performance actually feels somewhat more personal than I would expect in a venue the size of the Ritz and its 1500 capacity and there is obviously a lot of affection going both ways between the band and the audience.
There is time for two encores in ‘Boxes’ and ‘Broadway’ before the band eventually take their leave and I scurry quickly off for my last train, a good night had by all.