By Mac Engel
The only reason Johnny Rzeznik never did quite hit the level of acclaim, and fame, as contemporaries Eddie Vedder, the late Kurt Cobain and or Dave Grohl has to be choice. Rzeznik, the front man for The Goo Goo Dolls, is as talented as any rock performer in the last 30 years but he’s always seemed content not off to the side, but not in the middle of the biggest stage. Rzeznik’s is a musician’s musician, and he never really did hit the major commercial scene like some of his contemporaries. Close.
Not that Rzeznik has exactly been stuck in local clubs scratching out a few hundred bucks a night. His band, the Goo Goo Dolls, formed in 1986, and they’re still together. On Wednesday night, they played the Toyota Music Factory in Irving on their tour that features music from their latest album, “Chaos In Bloom.”
That is their 14th album, and at 56 years of age Johnny Rzeznik’s still got it. He writes, he sings, he makes a guitar dance. His voice may not be able to reach all of the high notes the way it could 30 years ago, but close enough. He’s still a rock star who can do rock star things. Rzeznik and four band mates took the stage before a mostly full Toyota Music Factory at 9:12, and ripped through an energetic 23-song set that featured the hits that made them famous; a sample of new songs from their latest album, and a daring cover that maybe only Rzeznik would be bold enough to execute.
Rather than play his biggest hit to end the show, the Goo Goo Dolls leaned on Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream.” We lost Petty in 2017, and “Dream” is a song that is as much his as “American Girl.” It’s hard to hear anyone but Petty and The Heartbreakers perform these classic rock songs. These songs feature the Tom Petty guitar sound made famous by Tom Petty, and The Heartbreaker’s lead guitarist, Mike Campbell.
Thanks to Rzeznik’s considerable skills with a guitar, the Goo Goo Dolls pulled this off. It’s not quite as good as their 2004 hit cover of Supertramp’s, “Air Supply,” but it was a rousing end to a fun evening that showed off the Rzeznik’s talents. He changed guitars more than 20 times during the show, and he went acoustic for “Sympathy” and for the start of maybe the band’s biggest hit, “Name.”
“Thank you for remembering that song,” he told the audience. “Thank you for keeping this band alive.” Original band member Robby Takac performed a few songs, and he’s a decent singer. He’s just not Rzeznik. Rzeznik could have played solo with a busted guitar while sitting on a stool and been just as entertaining.
He even tried his hand at the harmonica during “Broadway,” after which he told the audience, “Whatever. At least I’m trying.” He hasn’t lost it, either.
GOO GOO DOLLS set list from performance on Aug. 31 at Toyota Music Factory in Irving.
1. Yeah, I like you.
3. Big Machine
4. Here is Gone
5. Black Balloon
7. Miracle Pill
8. Over and Over
9. Lucky Star
10. Free of Me
11. Come to Me
14. So Alive
16. Going Crazy
17. Life’s a Message
18. Bringing on the Light
20. Better Days
22. Tattered Edge/You Should Be Happy
23. Running Down a Dream