GOO GOO DOLLS
Live at The Depot
Salt Lake City, UT
November 1, 2018
Review & Photos by Kevin Jewkes
The Goo Goo Dolls, or as my 3-year-old calls them, the Go-Go Dolls (??) found moderate success in the mid-90’s before their 1998 chart topping smash Iris hit the airwaves. Originally written for the film City of Angels (which I never watched – thanks Nicholas Cage), the band was wise enough to also include the track on their same year release of Dizzy Up The Girl, riding the singles’ success to album success, the band embarked on a 20 year anniversary tour, playing the album front to back, followed by assorted ‘hits’ from the bands 32 year, 11 album history. Iris defined the album, as it did the alt-rock airwaves of 98, only to be robbed of potential Grammy’s by the adult contemporary ‘hit’ “My Heart Will Go On’, from the Titanic soundtrack. This is what happens when you write a song for a film fronted by Nicholas Cage, versus Leonardo DiCaprio, you miss out on Grammy’s. But I digress.
After acquiring pre-sale tickets through SiriusXM in April, the cold night of November 1st arrived. Doors at 7, show 8, and arriving 20 minutes prior to doors, the line stretched down the block and around the corner, the sold-out crowd arriving early in anticipation of reliving the glory days of ’98. Doors opened shortly after 7, and the crowd filtered in. The Depot can transform between all ages and 21+ venue, depending on the act, and on this night, the venue was 21+, foregoing just a single upstairs bar for full stock on both levels of the venue. This was greatly appreciated, as it appeared most of those in line early weren’t heading to find a spot in front of the stage, but rather to queue up at that bar. An hour later, the venue was packed, and the crowd waited in anticipation. There was no opener on the bill, and the empty stage contained a few mic stands, keyboards, a drumkit behind glass, and a backdrop of the albums cover art. Missing, as has become far too normal for many bands, were the guitar amplifiers, the band opting to run through amp simulators instead. 8:10 arrived, still no band on stage, 8:20…8:30…around 8:40, the band could be seen about ready to come on stage; however, after several hours of waiting, someone in the crowd passed out. After medical assistance was offered and the patron appeared to be ‘ok’, the band took the stage a little after 8:45.
The Goo Goo Dolls present an interesting dynamic, as only two original members remain – Guitarist/Vocalist you’ve seen in the music videos, Johnny Rzeznik, and Bassist/Vocalist Robby Takac. The two splits song writing duties, and have very distinct, and different styles, which, might cause a casual listener(like myself), to be caught off guard. Rzeznik still sports the same hair from ’98, it looks like it hasn’t aged a day. Not being an avid Goo (I think that’s what they call fans of the band?), Rzeznik was the only member I recognized. Takac wears a large smile and looks like he is the kind of guy that’s fun to be around and could be playing bass for any punk outfit. The only thing more contrasting than the appearance of the two is their song writing styles. Rzeznik’s songs stick in the adult contemporary/alt rock realm relying on great vocals and melody, where Takac’s songs are more raw, if not more passionate. The rest of the band is filled out with paid musicians of varying age-ranges, but the drummer is hard to see behind the plexi-glass wall separating the kit from the band. The songs sound tight, and Rzeznik’s vocals sound like they haven’t aged; however, after Broadway (and changing to the 4th guitar of the night (4 song in)), they stop to chat a little bit. Personally, I prefer when bands present a live album start-to-finish, they do so without commentary, to best replicate the album experience. The show was sold out, indicating the fans were very excited about the 4x Platinum Album; yet, for some reason Rzeznik decides to mention that it’s interesting playing these songs live after all these years, because some of them they haven’t played in 20 years, and playing them now, it makes sense as to why they haven’t played them. It was a dig at the band, but, it may have been coincidence, but as a casual observer, it seemed directed at the songs Takac sings. In fact, during the tracks on which Takac has the lead vocals on, it seemed as though Rzeznik would have to remind himself to smile as he moved about the stage playing guitar, seemingly un-engaged. Regardless, the band continued to power through the album, each song sounding sharp. Another smart move by the band was burying Iris 11 songs deep into the album. I’m not familiar enough with the album to know when it was coming, I thought perhaps they were saving it for an encore. Finally, the staple song arrived, and, unfortunately, it was simply “ok”. I wanted to hear the song with the passion the original recording achieved, however, it didn’t translate, as Rzeznik interacted with fans, and let them sing some of the iconic lines. It wasn’t bad – it just wasn’t as powerful as I’d hoped. I was hoping for a goosebumps performance. We got a Good Morning America performance. Impersonal, and lacking passion.
The band wrapped up the album, left the stage – replaced the album art with a large “goo goo dolls” banner (only partially legible because it was too big for the stage) and Rzeznik reappeared with his acoustic guitar. He played Come To Me (off 2013’s Magnetic), Better Days (2006’s Let Love In) and Sympathy (2002’s Gutterflower) by himself, before the band joined him for 8 more songs from throughout the catalog. Throughout the second set, Rzeznik reminisced about when no one had heard of his band, or, how he has to stay of social media because he gets angry and tweets back at critics (I wonder if he’d like this review?). It seemed that throughout the night, there was some bitterness coming through from the singer. The highlight of the second set was the pop track So Alive from 2016’s Boxes, which included a lengthy bridge sing along. Outside of Iris, this track had the crowd engaged more than any other song in the set. The band wrapped up the 1:45 performance with an encore of Big Machine (Gutterflower) and left the stage. The night was over, well past the bed time of much of the fans. The joy of no amplifiers on stage is that your ears aren’t ringing after a show – but some of us like that ringing. The band sounded great, no one lost their hearing, and the Goo’s went home satisfied. The Dizzy Up The Girl Tour has ended – but the Buffalo, NY band will be joining forces with the San Francisco based powerhouse Train (the band, not the rail vehicle) to tour next summer – check out the tour dates here.