By Margaret Quamme
Elegantly simple may not be the most precise way to describe a concert that involved two well-armed confetti cannons and a mammoth balloon release, but musically, it fits the Goo Goo Dolls’ fast-moving, thoroughly enjoyable concert at the Palace Theatre last night.
Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac have been making music together since the eighties, and their familiarity with each other and comfort with the music made for an easy-going concert, one in which song followed song in quick succession, with only the briefest of pauses to swap one instrument for another.
The two were accompanied by only three other musicians, on guitar, keyboards, and drum, which made for a stripped down rather than bombastic sound.
Takac, grinning gleefully, played the role of cheerleader and clown when he wasn’t playing the bass, encouraging the crowd to clap and sing along. He also took the lead on a few of his own songs, with his distinctive nasal, stacatto voice and bursts of energy giving a unique twist to the new “Life’s a Message.”
Rzeznik, who moved fluidly between electric and acoustic guitar, did the majority of the show’s vocal heavy lifting, and though his voice was at times a little hoarse, it gave a welcome edge and depth to the songs.
While many of those were from the group’s hit albums from the nineties, including a buoyant “Slide” and a dynamic “Broadway,” quite a few from their latest album slipped in easily and were received appreciatively by the audience in the packed theatre. New ones including the boisterous title track from “Miracle Pill” and the anthemic “Fearless” have an energy and rhythmic complexity that indicate the pleasures of the group’s evolving sound.
While it clipped along at a brisk pace, the concert also felt loose enough to allow for surprises, as when Rzeznik accidentally dropped his mic into the crowd and had to giddily attempt to regroup, or when he invited an audience member who was holding a banner asking to be allowed to play “Name” up on the stage, handed him his guitar, and threw handfuls of confetti at him as he played a creditable version of the song.
The concert ended, as expected, with the Dolls’ biggest hit, “Iris,” in a version that both showed surprising depth and allowed for a cathartic singalong.
But the real showpiece of the concert was the song that preceded it. “Autumn Leaves,” one of the songs from the new album, which starts simply, almost mournfully, and then ebbs and flows in richly dramatic currents.
Philadelphia-based Beach Slang opened with a set that was part classic punk rock and part slightly demented performance art piece, during which lead singer James Alex stumbled out of his pants, tangled verbally with a heckler, said, “I’m so drunk. What’s the next verse?” and sang a presumably ironic version of “Wonderwall.”