Goo Goo Dolls' frontman John Rzeznik performs Saturday night, Aug. 19, at the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights (Photo by Chris Schwegler/313 Presents).
Rare is the band that can open a concert with almost a half-dozen bona fide hit singles and still have plenty left to keep the rest of the night in high gear.
That was the case for Goo Goo Dolls on Saturday, Aug. 19, during its second visit in just over a year to the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights. The quintet came out nothing but strong with the likes of “Broadway,” “Slide,” “Big Machine,” “Here is Gone” and “Black Balloon” — the latter accompanied by actual black balloons bouncing around the pavilion.
Rather than draining its A list, however, the group — led by co-founders John Rzeznik and Robby Takac — kept things on full blast for its entire hour and 45 minutes, playing with energetic economy that allowed the Goos to squeeze more than two dozen songs into the set list over the course of the night.
Where last year’s show was in support of the band’s latest album, 2022’s “Chaos in Bloom,” Saturday’s edition put its emphasis on the Goos’ 36-year recording career — not acknowledging the 25th anniversary of its multi-platinum “Dizzy Up the Girl” but drawing six songs from it, more than any of the band’s other albums. There were, as noted, hits aplenty but also some welcome deep digs; prior to the Big Night Out Tour the Goos polled fans online about songs they wanted to hear beyond the singles, resulting in the inclusion of tracks such as “So Alive,” “Dizzy,” “Run All Night” and the Takac-sung “January Friend.”
“Sympathy,” meanwhile was pared down to just Rzeznik accompanied solely by Jim McGorman on piano, while “Come to Me” was given a similarly stripped-down but full band arrangement. Rzeznik then started “Name,” the Goos’ first big hit, solo before the rest of the band kicked in after the first chorus — though the frontman stopped at points to acknowledge the smell of marijuana wafting from the crowd.
“Long Way Down,” “Let Love In,” a chiming “Better Days” and “Tattered Edge”/”You Should Be Happy” were late-show highlights, and Marc Roberge of opening act O.A.R. joined the Goos to recreate their tour single, a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” The Goos finished with “Iris,” its chart-topping hit for the 1998 film “City of Angels,” with Rzeznik remembering the band’s long history in the metro area with a shout-out to Saint Andrew’s Hall. It was clear a good many at the sold-out amphitheater were there back then, and likely will be the next time the Goos roll through town.
O.A.R., meanwhile, proved a solid tour partner during its sun-soaked 75-minute opening set, its expansive, jam-band aesthetic a nice complement to the Goos’ tight polished. The quintet (plus adjunct touring musicians) has 26 years of its own material to draw from, some of which — “Shattered (Turn the Car Around),” “Love and Memories” and “This Town” — has enjoyed modest commercial success. But O.A.R.’s real wont is in stretching out, as it did on songs such as “Miss You All the Time,” “Place to Hide” and “Hey Girl,” and the band had enough fans in the house Saturday to fill the pavilion air with tossed playing cards as it closed its set with “That Was a Crazy Game of Cards.”