BY JORDAN RAIFF ON JULY 9, 2019
Allen Stone, Goo Goo Dolls, Train 07-09-17
MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre Tampa, FL
Serving up a ‘Miracle Pill’ filled with ‘Drops of Jupiter”
The tumbling grey clouds covered the sky over the MidFL Credit Union Amphitheatre, as anyone would expect for Tampa this time of year. The little bits of thunder could be heard faintly in rhythm with Allen Stone’s music.
Playing through a six-song set, Allen’s take on ‘Is This Love’ from Bob Marley was a great middle cover. Dancing in sync with his bassist and guitarist, their routine was a great way to get the intro to the show going.
Playing through ‘Unaware’, ‘Taste of You’, and ‘Voodoo’, the set was short, but entertaining. His smooth vocals, and audience participation helped to warm everything up.
Playing in the middle were the Goo Goo Dolls. Originally formed in Buffalo, NY they have been around for over 30 years, and remain largely unchanged. Their stage presence and energy has kept long-time fans coming back for more and take people ‘just there for the headliner’ and turns them into fans.
Literally jumping onto the stage in front of a red ‘curtain’ on the LED boards, lead guitarist Johnny Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac (the two original members still playing), and their touring musicians. Robbie was playing in his unconventional barefoot and rolled up pants attire and had more energy than I have seen from him in ages.
Opening up their 15-song set with ‘Stay With You’ from Dizzy Up The Girl Johnny definitely had on his singing shoes. Getting the audience on their feet dancing, and singing along, it was a great way to say ‘Hi Tampa!!’
Up next was ‘Big Machine’. Another stellar song, and had both Johnny and Robby trading out for different guitars. This was something you usually see a few times per set, not nearly every song. It just goes to show how intently and how passionately they play.
‘Slide’ rounded out the first three songs and wrapped up an opening trio from Dizzy. This greatly loved, and deeply personal song got the few stragglers out of their seats and on their feet. They started taking full advantage of the LED boards behind them, and showcased galactic backgrounds, and other things that gave a feeling of being a kid again.
During ‘Black Balloon’ they released about 30 different sized black balloons and beachballs. They were being tossed around the crowd for the next few songs too. Watching people straining across rows to get a shot to pass them along was a great sight considering how serious people take life these days.
‘Name’ elicited the biggest crowd reaction so far during the set. As their first break through song, and their first real step away from their punk roots, it’s a tune that nearly everyone over the age of 30 has a memory of. Filling the audience in on a little history, Johnny shared “this song was written as I was trying to decide what to do with my life”.
A great way to introduce new singles is to use them to follow up your top hit. ‘Miracle Pill’ is that new single. While the tone of this new single might sound familiar, the subject matter and tempo are new. It still fits their style of music perfectly. You could see some fans singing along, but many were content to just move to the groove.
‘Better Days’ was played two songs later (at 13) and this song is the ‘unofficial anthem’ of the City of Buffalo, and in particular its sports teams. For many though, it’s a song to inspire hope in ultimately more dire circumstances. Fighting cancer, facing divorce, etc. this is a song that just says it all for these big moments people face in life. Looking around the audience I caught a few people wiping away tears as they sung along.
The tears kept flowing for some as ‘Iris’ was up next. Now I’ve heard Johnny sing this as he strums his Taylor acoustic numerous times, but this time it seemed to have more passion than ever before. It really felt like he had made that connection emotionally with the audience that every fan hopes to get, and every musician needs to feel. Closing the song with an extended solo, it was a great touch.
You can’t walk off stage on a note like that though. Closing with ‘Broadway’, the band ramped back up the energy for the crowd. The sing along was louder than before, and that energy blistered through the fans as the set ended with Johnny blowing the audience a kiss before leaving the stage.
“Choo-Choo” that famous train sound roared across the arena as Train hit the stage very suddenly. As people raced back to their seats from the beer stands, ‘Calling All Angels’ came across the speakers with force. A song that still is on the grocery store playlists across the globe had people dancing in the isles and singing aloud.
Ending the song with light sparkler pyrotechnics, they rocked right into ’50 Ways to Say Goodbye’ as the second song of the 15 song main set. With a mariachi band playing on screen with sugar skulls, and red, white, & green in the background, they solidified the Mexican influence the song has on it. Capping the song off with a shower of red and white confetti, it felt out of place. These effects are usually reserved for the end of a show.
After a drum solo ‘It its Love’ played as Pat Monahan took time to encourage fans to light up the amp for him to take a video to share with everyone. Looking back, the number of lights and lighters in the sky was simply amazing.
Following up with ‘Get to Me’ a challenge was laid out; could the Tampa fans dance better? Later on it was announced that the fans danced better than the fans in Georgia. The prideful roar in response to that news was nearly deafening.
What good is one challenge without another? Pitting section against section, the first lines of ‘Save Me San Francisco’ became an audience participation contest. With no clear winner, more beachballs made their way out to the audience. Naturally of course they stayed going for quite some time.
Allen Stone made his way back on stage for his rendition of the Alicia Keys chorus of ‘Empire State of Mind’ as an into to ‘Bruises’. Pat and Allen really sing well off one another and their chemistry is terrific. Announcing the hometown performance for guitarist Luis Maldonado, he was given a shot at a solo and was just a bit less than expected. Pat gave him another shot later on, and he nailed it.
Taking advantage of this solo time Pat came back out wearing a Train shirt. While performing ’Meet Virginia’ he brought out a bunch of other shirts to toss out. Walking around he had the whole band sign the Train shirt he now had on, as he tossed it out to a kid in the front row.
Johnny Rzeznik came back out to sing ‘American Girl’ and the audience sang along as best they could. It was obvious that as much as people may love this song, many of us only know the chorus. Before Johnny walked off, they took the time to take a selfie together with the audience.
Luis took up the majority of the vocals for ‘Under Pressure’ after a small sing back and forth with the audience from Pat ala Freddy Mercury. He even joked about how we all had seen the movie and knew how this worked.
Featuring a snippet of ‘In my Feelings’ as an intro, ‘Hey Soul Sister’ and ‘Play That Song’ rounded out the main set. Pat’s voice was noticeably suffering by this point, but he was still with it. He walked off the stage first as the song ended. While some people were heading for the exits as the music went away, most people stayed and cheered for more.
Coming back out, they played a two-song encore; ‘Great Escape’ (a Pat Monahan track), and ‘Drops of Jupiter’ to end the night. As it was their biggest single, it was a great tune to end the night with.
Talking with fans on the way out, they were excited to have seen the show. One woman said “I’ve seen Train 4 times, and the Goo Goo Dolls 7 times. I’ve never heard either band better.”
The tour continues on to Alpharetta, GA on 10JUL19 and goes on through 17AUG19 in Mansfield, MA.
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