MONTCLAIR, NJ—“Freebird!” shouted a voice from the crowd after the Goo Goo Dolls lit up the stage with the upbeat “Sweetest Lie” from their latest album, Something for the Rest of Us. John Rzeznik (lead singer/guitarist) ordered the band to begin Skynyrd’s smash hit, but Mike Malinin (drummer) refused. “He thinks he’s in some indie band,” joked Rzeznik, “I guess what we’re basically saying… is f*** you.”
And so the night began. Full of energy for the entirety of their two-hour set, the band belted out hit after hit. They wasted no time in between songs, switching guitars with their roadies within seconds. The crowd (me included) ate it up. Rzeznik took the mic for most of the songs in the set, although Robby Takac (bassist) took the lead on a few of the more up-tempo songs interspersed throughout. Tunes like “January Friend,” although in some ways reminiscent of the pop-punk opening set by The Spill Canvas, maintained there unique Goo Goo Dolls flavor. The guitar riffs unambiguously identify the songs as belonging to the band, though Takac’s voice is unique and distinct from Rzeznik’s.
It was refreshing to see a band that has enjoyed superstardom for over a decade at such an intimate venue. The show conjured up nostalgia for the days of watching the video for “Iris” in my parent’s living room on VH1 before leaving each morning for middle school. Hearing Rzeznik’s enamoring vocals not only leaves you in awe of how many hit songs the band has had over the years, but also brings you to where you were and what you were doing when each song came out. The raw emotion of each song translates through the beautifully orchestrated music.
Each generation was present in the crowd, reflecting the universal nature of the Goo Goo Dolls’ music. Whether you are 12, 32, or 62, there is something you can latch on to in each and every song. Lyrics like “I don’t want the world to see me, ‘cause I don’t think that they’d understand” and “I’m blind and waiting for you,” tune right in to emotions felt past or present. And it is not only the lyrics but the music as a whole that can have you tapping your feet, moving your hips, crying and smiling all at the same time.
Speaking of instrumentation, the rhythm guitarist busted out a mandolin during “Iris” which I never even realized was in the song. As someone who is not a guitarist, I’ve heard the intro of that song hundreds of times, without even realizing that it is the mandolin that gives the intro its signature sound. During the encore, the keyboardist let it rip on the saxophone for a short solo during “Black Balloon.”
The Goo Goo Dolls put on a stellar show that had fans crowded around the tour bus (parked directly in front of the theater) as soon as the show ended. It is refreshing to see a band that has been together for over two decades still actively making music that is relevant and makes you feel sincere emotions. This was my first time seeing the Goo Goo Dolls, and I don’t anticipate it being my last.