By “MADD” Manda Walsh
This year the Goo Goo Dolls celebrated the 20th anniversary of their iconic album Dizzy Up the Girl with a 27-date tour to commemorate the occasion. The 4x platinum certified album, featuring five top-charting hits, which includes its massive City of Angels soundtrack single (“Iris”), was performed in its entirety for the first time since its debut in September of 1998, an experience that proved to be truly unforgettable for both fans and original members, John Rzeznik and Robby Takac. Although prior to its kickoff the tour was described as a celebration of Dizzy Up the Girl, it was also more than implied that the second set of the show would feature a mix of the band’s various hits as well. However, as the tour kicked off in Arizona and Texas and the reviews started to roll in, it became clear based on the set lists shared from each city that the second set was in fact not what it was originally marketed as. After seeing the show for myself, it was quite obvious that this very special tour commemorating the acclaimed album was meant for genuine fans of the Goo Goo Dolls and not the casual listener whose only familiarity with them are their radio hits.
Fortunate enough to catch the Dizzy Up the Girl 20th Anniversary Tour when it came through Chicago on Friday, October 26th, I can tell you firsthand how memorable a night it was. Choosing The Chicago Theater as the backdrop to celebrate this particular stop on the tour couldn’t have been more fitting considering the venue’s history, not only as a landmark in the Windy City, but also a staple in the entertainment world. I imagine as an artist, having your name featured on the marquee outside a venue like The Chicago Theater is comparable to seeing your face on a billboard in Times Square – there’s an indescribable magic in that moment that signifies leaving one’s mark. And to say the Goo Goo Dolls have left their mark would most certainly be an understatement.
There’s something special about hearing an album live from beginning to end by a band whose music has not only spanned decades, but has also had a seriously significant impact on such an excessive number of people. There’s a level of comfort that’s similar to the comfort felt when reuniting with an old friend. You know there’s going to be anecdotes shared, but not so many that they get in the way of the songs themselves. This is exactly what it felt like walking into this tour. The anticipation and excitement in the air were undeniable as the sold-out crowd ranging from twenty something year olds to those in their mid to late forties shuffled into their seats after having bought their souvenir t-shirts and special edition vinyl of Dizzy Up the Girl to remember the special event.
With an oversize frame holding the Dizzy Up the Girl album artwork centered in the middle of the stage, as the house lights finally dimmed at 8:30pm and the stage lights illuminated the beautifully detailed theater, the audience very loudly welcomed the Goo Goo Dolls to Chicago as they kicked off the first of their two sets of the night. Beginning with “Dizzy,” and followed by two of the album’s biggest hits – “Slide” and “Broadway” – Rzeznik and Takac proceeded to take fans on a journey back in time when backpack purses were all the rage and you weren’t cool unless wore plaid. As promised, the Dolls played every song on Dizzy, including those featuring Takac on lead vocals. Fans watched with glee as black balloons were appropriately released in the air during one of many fan favorites, “Black Balloon,” and sang their loudest when it was time for “Iris.” Rzeznik and Takac’s performance was flawless, as they never skipped a beat.
Before we knew it, the 13-song set was over and the band was exiting the stage for what fans assumed would be a short intermission in between sets. Much to their surprise and pleasure, though, Rzeznik immediately returned with an acoustic guitar in hand for a solo performance of “Better Days” and “Sympathy.” The talented singer-songwriter took the time to explain before beginning “Better Days” that although the song started out as a holiday song, over time it developed a much deeper meaning. Filled with hope and words of encouragement about pushing through life’s toughest moments and remembering second chances exist for a reason, the emotionally charged song was even more haunting when stripped down to only Rezeznik’s vocals and the acoustic guitar.
As Takac and the rest of the band returned to the stage, they picked things up and took everyone back to the Dolls’ early days with “Falling Down,” “Lucky Star,” and “Stop the World,” from their 1993 album, Superstar Car Wash. This is where I noticed the two very different types of fans in attendance. While one of the guys in front of me had a look of confusion on his face as he subtlety tried to search the Goo Goo Dolls catalog on Spotify to try and figure out what songs they were now playing, the group of guys behind me happily sang along to most if not all of the second set which included (to the casual Dolls listener) less familiar songs, like “Notbroken,” “Another Second Time Around,” and “There You Are.” I realized then that as incredible as this 20th anniversary tour was, it was definitely meant for those who are actual, diehard fans of the band, as opposed to those who are just fans of their bigger, more well-known hits.
Rzeznik and Takac concluded the second half of the show with a one song encore that left everyone satisfied, but wishing their evening with one of their favorite bands could last longer. As the audience sang along to “Big Machine,” their applause and cheering booming, it was clear how undeniable the influence the Goo Goo Dolls has had on my generation (those born in the mid-80s but grew up in the 90s) is. Yes, it was Dizzy Up the Girl that launched them into mainstream success, but the veteran alt-rockers are also responsible for a hefty number of other majorly successful hits that music fans immediately know the moment they hear them. The outstanding catalog of albums this band has gifted us with is nothing short of impressive. And whether you live and breathe for the Goo Goo Dolls or you casually enjoy their radio songs, Rzeznik and Takac’s music legacy is firmly planted, and they are in no hurry to slow down any time soon.
Set List – Chicago Theater – 10/26
All Eyes On Me
Stop the World
Another Second Time Around
There You Are