By Patrick McCarthy
Goo Goo Dolls’ lead vocalist and guitarist John Rzeznik may have some fears of the future, but that doesn’t mean the band is stuck in the past.
The Buffalo-based band played for an hour and 45 minutes at the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater in Syracuse on Wednesday night, following a strong opening act from fellow alt-rock veterans O.A.R.
In their 25 song set, the Goo Goo Dolls featured all their classic hits, but seamlessly mixed in eight tracks from their two most recent albums. Starting at 9:06 p.m. with “Broadway,” the band played three hits before Rzeznik paused to reminisce.
“I remember playing at the Lost Horizon and just being amazed that anybody actually came and saw us. You guys have been good to us for a long time,” Rzeznik said, and they launched into “Big Machine.”
After a few more classics like “Black Balloon,” which prompted fans to throw dozens of black balloons around the venue, the Goo Goo Dolls played two new tracks, “Yeah, I Like You” and “Going Crazy” from their 2022 album Chaos in Bloom.
“We’re gonna play some new songs, play some old songs, and this one is particularly dusty, it goes like this!” said pink-haired bassist and vocalist Robby Takac before leading the band in “Lucky Star.”
Later, Rzeznik sang over keyboardist Jim McGorman’s lead piano as the pair performed a stripped back version of “Sympathy” that the audience loved. Next, Rzeznik opened up about some anxiety about Big Tech.
“I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels like they’re trying to make humans obsolete – in every way,” the singer said. I’m a little scared of AI. I feel like if I had a conversation with chatGPT, it’d be like talking to a psycho ex-girlfriend,” Rzeznik joked.
As the singer spoke, roadies wheeled out the band’s “sixth member,” an archaic tape recorder with “TAPEY” spray painted across the front in thick red letters. Rzeznik told the audience that he hired talented session musicians to record the next song with him, but soon realized these musicians were too expensive to bring on tour.
“So, I replaced them with technology!” And with Tapey’s help, the Goo Goo Dolls performed an interesting, electronic drum-laden rendition of a newer song, “Lost.”
After a standout performance of “Name,” which included a captivating, a capella chorus, the band bounced between past and present for another six songs before everyone except McGorman and drummer Craig Macintyre briefly left the stage. The rest of the band came back onstage as McGorman played some dramatic, synthy chords on the keyboard, before his bandmates joined in for a rousing performance of the 2022 song “Tattered Edge / You Should Be Happy.”
The Goo Goo Dolls saved the best for last, but it wasn’t quite what fans expected. Rzeznik brought out Marc Roberge from O.A.R., and it seemed like this was the grand finale.
“We’re gonna play a song that I know you Know, and you should sing along,” Rzeznik said.
Instead of the band’s biggest hit, though, the Goo Goo Dolls launched into Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” and Roberge Rzeznik traded vocals on a stellar cover of a well-worn song. The two bands collaborated on a cover of this song earlier this year.
Finally, the Goo Goo Dolls closed with their 25th song of the night, the one everybody was waiting for, “Iris.” Fans sang along with passion, and the band cut out to hear the entire crowd yell the lyric “Yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive.” After some additional choruses, the Goo Goo Dolls wrapped up the song and said goodnight.
Normally when a band says they’re going to play some new material, it is met with annoyance by an audience that came for the hits, but the Goo Goo Dolls were able to mix in some fresh tracks while still giving fans all the classics.
- Over and Over
- Big Machine
- Here Is Gone
- Black Balloon
- January Friend
- Yeah, I Like You
- Going Crazy
- Lucky Star
- So Alive
- Come to Me
- Miracle Pill
- Run All Night
- Life’s A Message
- Bringing On the Light
- Better Days
- Stay With You
- Tattered Edge / You Should Be Happy
- I Won’t Back Down (cover)