By Howard Hardee
The Goo Goo Dolls have seen it firsthand and often: In times of tragedy and hardship, music has a way of bringing people together. In October 2001, they played the Concert for New York City alongside luminaries such as Paul McCartney, the Who, and David Bowie to honor the first responders who died during the September 11 attacks. And four years later, the band played the Superdome in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s crazy how music can change people’s moods and perspectives, maybe just enough so they can move on a little bit,” says Robby Takac, the band’s bassist and one of the founding members. “It’s awesome to be a part of that.”
More recently, the Goo Goo Dolls participated in a fundraising benefit concert in Las Vegas — the first big, outdoor event held there since the mass shooting this past October.
“It was wild,” Takac says. “I’ve never experienced a preshow security briefing like that before, and we’ve played in active war zones. It was intense, but you could tell the people who came to the show were there standing tall and definitely motivated to move forward.”
Takac says the band jumped on the chance to support another worthy cause. On February 10, the Goo Goo Dolls will play Hard Rock Stadium as part of the Miami Dolphins’ largest signature charity event of the year, the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, which benefits innovative cancer research at South Florida’s only academic-based cancer research mecca: the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami.
“It’s helping push something along that’s good for humanity,” Takac says. “We try to get involved anytime something like that comes our way, and at the end of the day, a lot of money is going to go to research and helping people cope with some of the challenges life has dealt them.”
Formed in 1985 in Buffalo, New York, the Goo Goo Dolls produced a string of iconic and ubiquitous late-’90s and early-’00s rock hits, including “Iris,” “Name,” “Slide,” and “Give a Little Bit.” And the bandmates have maintained a remarkable run since their heydey, putting out nine Top 10 albums since 1998. However, Takac recognizes that record sales alone no longer accurately reflect a band’s sphere of influence.
“It’s really hard to have any barometer of success in this business now,” he says. “We used to look at charts and records sold and get a good idea of where we were. But the media is so splintered now, the way people access music now is so different, and there are so many options that it’s become hard to judge. I guess for us, we’re not competing against Jay-Z this week… and people are still coming to our shows. Things are going all right.”
However it’s quantified, much of the band’s success is tied to frontman John Rzeznik’s abilities as a songwriter, along with his singing voice — one of the most easily identifiable in modern rock.
“John’s voice is a pretty recognizable thread through all of the phases we’ve gone through over the years,” Takac says. He adds that maintaining a stable roster has also been a huge factor. “It’s been a pretty consistent marriage of people for a long time, which helps us kind of move forward while maintaining the same sensibilities we’ve had in the past.”
That said, they’ve attempted to change the creative equation by bringing in multiple producers on each of their most recent records, including 2016’s Boxes — the band’s 11th studio album. “Having different personalities in the room tends to push what we do one direction or another — maybe somewhere we wouldn’t have gone on our own,” Takac says. “And that makes for a more interesting record, I think.”
As for what’s next, the Goo Goo Dolls have been in the studio touching up a new live album, due out later this year, and gearing up for dates in Europe and Indonesia. Takac says he gets road-wearier than he used to, but he’s thankful to be performing with his friends more than 30 years into the band’s inception.
“Now we have families and kids and stuff, so it makes it a little tougher,” he says. “But that being said, we’re pretty lucky, man. We’ve been at this for a long time, and there still seems to be room for us. It feels good.”
Goo Goo Dolls. With Big Head Todd and the Monsters. 1 p.m. Saturday, February 10, as part of the Dolphins Cancer Challenge at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens; 305-943-8000; hardrockstadium.com. Tickets cost $25 via ticketmaster.com.