by Andrew Watters
Every time I see a band with a career like the Goo Goo Dolls have had, I walk in worried.
Breaking into the mainstream in the mid to late 90s with hits like Name, Slide, and of course, Iris, Goo Goo Dolls have continued to put out a steady stream of music but continue to be defined by those hits. I’ve seen way too many bands from that era that have done awful jobs of letting you know that yes, they had a big hit, but they also have other music. Those types of shows where you know everyone is just there for one or two songs and it’s painfully obvious, that’s what I was worried about as I walked into Buddy Holly Hall on Wednesday night. Luckily, the band excelled and erased any of my doubts across their career-spanning 90-minute set.
For starters, it helps that most all of their new studio output is actually good. The band opened the show with Yeah, I Like You, the lead single and opening track to the new album Chaos in Bloom. It’s a super fun upbeat pop-rock song and I think it kicked off the show well. Later in the set, the band also played War and Going Crazy from the new album which were also fantastic live and didn’t draw away from the energy like new songs usually do.
However, what really impressed me was how much fun lead singer and co-founder John Rzeznik was on stage. Whether it was his banter, his energy, or how he seemed unable to stay still, he was a super fun frontman to watch. At one point early in the band’s set, Rzeznik walked on stage saying, “What’s going on in the world, let’s check the paper,” revealing a copy of the Avalanche-Journal with Rzeznik on the front page. He thanked the crowd and thanked the paper but not before fans in the front row tried to grab it from him to which Rzeznik asked, “Are you from Lubbock?” The first reaching fan said no so he asked the second who told him yes. “Well then go buy the f*cking paper,” he told her.
Bassist and other co-founder Robby Takac was equally as fun to watch on stage. Banging his head so hard that it sort of hurt me, running back and forth all across the stage, and consistently hitting a pose where he would yell/smile and pump his fist in the air. Takac also sang a few songs across the evening, the biggest highlights being Lucky Star and Bringing on the Light. Bringing on the Light started off slow and piano-led before an explosion of drums, guitar, and lights strobing in different colors in every direction.
And while I know I made it a point to say that Goo Goo Dolls played good new material, the band still has a ton of hits and all of those songs were also great live. Slide was thrown in second and the collective scream that was let out when the acoustic guitar intro started is unlike anything I had ever heard in Buddy Holly Hall before. It was the first of many huge sing-alongs across the night. There were also great ones for So Alive, Better Days, Sympathy, and Broadway, which closed the main set. Broadway actually caught me by surprise with how great it was live, I think it’s mainly because it only benefits from being in the live setting. The drums hit a little harder, the guitars are a little louder and a bit more distorted, just little things that change the song for the better. Sympathy was also incredible live with Rzeznik performing the song solo and acoustic. It’s always been one of my favorite songs in the band’s catalog so getting to hear it live was great.
The band closed their set with a two-song encore playing Name and of course, Iris. I’ve always loved the slow build of Name and it was even better in the live context. Finally, Iris led one of the loudest sing-alongs I’ve ever heard at a show in my life, it’s right up there with Hey Jude and Enter Sandman. When Dyan (our incredible music director) and I got to interview Robby, he said that the song has always been a monolith and a song that they can play anywhere and get a huge response to it. Using it to close out the night at Buddy Holly Hall was just more proof of that and I don’t know if they could’ve ended the show any better.
As someone who went in as a mild fan of the band, I left with a much bigger appreciation for them and recognized way more songs than I thought I would. Songs like So Alive and Black Balloon were songs I knew but just never associated with the band. Whether you’re someone who grew up obsessed with Dizzy Up the Girl or someone who just knows the hits, I don’t think it’ll be hard to have a great time at a Goo Goo Dolls show.
Goo Goo Dolls 14th studio album, Chaos in Bloom, is available wherever you purchase or stream music. Rzeznik also doesn’t care if you pirate it saying on stage, “We don’t care, musicians don’t make money off of music anymore.” The second leg of the band’s Chaos in Bloom Tour wraps up tonight in El Paso. Also, Dyan and I got to interview Robby Takac which was absolutely amazing. Our conversation with him is linked down below: