Words by Michael Menachem
Images by Alex Kluft
On the heels of news that the Goo Goo Dolls‘ seven-time platinum hit “Iris” reached 1 billion streams on Spotify, the Buffalo, NY band stopped at The Greek Theatre on Friday night at the start of a major SoCal heat wave for their Chaos In Bloom tour for 100 minutes. The tour supports their 13th album of the same name, which is the band’s first produced by frontman Johnny Rzeznik, and the tour includes a blend of this new material as well as fan favorites. Houston alternative rock band Blue October played as support.
Blue October‘s lead singer Justin Furstenfeld wore a leather jacket for the set, sounding strong throughout, and at one point saying “They told me I’ve played here before, but I don’t remember. Thank you to Johnny and Robby and the Goo Goo Dolls”. “Into The Ocean” sounded particularly appealing live and Furstenfeld hit some high notes on “Hate Me” while the stage lights went red and the violin offered some poignant moments. Acoustic guitar paired nicely with Furstenfeld’s voice and harmonies from keyboardist Ryan Delahoussaye for “This Is What I Live For” with the slick drum kick and the “yo/heys” from the band. The mysterious “Daylight” was another excellent vocal and full band song and following the tune Furstenfeld said, “We’re Blue October from Houston, TX. I truly believe we were put here on earth to be happy, joyous and free”. This completely juxtaposed the uplifting folk-rock vibes of “Moving On (So Long)” with a mandolin. The driving pop-rock tune “I Hope You’re Happy” had purple and green lights blazing around the band, Blue October’s frontman sitting down on stage for the last few bars with just the keys playing, and the lyric “I hope you’re happy, I hope you’re good, I hope you get what you wish for”.
Goo Goo Dolls started off with new track “Yeah, I Like You”, taking the stage in a flash, with the five musicians wearing all black, Johnny Rzeznik with a tiny ponytail and Robby Takac with magenta hair, as keyboardist Jim McGorman harmonized with Rzeznik. The fans were singing along and standing up during the 1998 earworm “Slide” followed by a pair of 2002 hits, “Big Machine” with the guitars sounding incredible, and enjoyable synth on “Here Is Gone”, with stars and beams of light enveloping the stage as the guitars sounded wonderful again. Rzeznik grabbed the mic and pointed out to the fans during the lyric “I know it’s out there”.
The first big wow of the night was the timeless “Black Balloon” with a beautiful vocal and guitar. It’s a tune like a few others that has solidified Goo Goo Dolls as one of the last dominant power ballad rock bands. Rock tune “Naked” powered through and “Miracle Pill” had some Fitz and the Tantrums soul-pop vibes. The crowd clapped along as fire blazed on the screen for “Over and Over” and then Takac led a couple songs. “What’s up Los Angeles?,” asked Takac. “It is so awesome to be here with you for a little of your summer”. Goo Goo Dolls played the punk-leaning “Lucky Stars” with Takac singing and he took over again on “Free of Me”.
The folk-rock beauty of “Come To Me” created a sort of in-the-round moment and for “Sympathy”, Rzeznik said “this song is about being a drunk”. He talked about still being sober and still being here after all these years and the beautiful ballad took off with just guitar with a multi-colored tree image in the background. Though Rzeznik forgot the lyrics around the third verse, he resumed after laughter from the fans and the band and it was still one of the best of the night. Rzeznik mentioned KROQ pioneering the spins of their popular track “Name” about 10 years after the Goo Goo Dolls had been a band and he was center stage playing acoustic guitar himself, with the band joining in at the chorus. Gosh, life was so easy when this song was released, and the intensity of the three guitars on the instrumental made it rather amazing.
The feel-good “So Alive” was a fun jolt, followed by the powerful “War” and guitar-heavy “Going Crazy”. Takac led the inspiring “Life’s A Message” as well as pop/rock tune “Bringing On The Light”. The lights flashed for the lively “Broadway”, sounding really beautiful with a stellar guitar instrumental section and Rzeznik hopping on harmonica. “It’s been one hell of a ride”, said Rzeznik. “Tomorrow will be better”. “Better Days” was one of the best of the night, chilling in its message, wonderful harmonies again from McGorman and Rzeznik hitting a nice note at the end. Goo Goo Dolls’ opening strums of their calling card song “Iris” sounded as timeless as ever with the entire Greek audience singing along, as the delicate guitar plucking made this song a reminder that it’s one of the best ballads of the 90s. Goo Goo Dolls concluded with “Tattered Edge / Your Should Be Happy”, a rockin’ song with a perfect vocal. Johnny Rzeznik repeated the memorable lyric, “as long as our eyes are closed” over and over.