Gig Review by Nic Jones
Some bands seem to have been around forever. They’ve been good enough to never really leave the public consciousness but they haven’t been setting the world alight for years on end either. They’ve made their mark, had some classic hits and got on with doing their own thing. They’ve grown up with their fans and managed to retain them and acquire a group of new ones along the way. It’s fair to say American rock band Goo Goo Dolls fall into this category. Formed in 1985, they have stood the test of time and aren’t ready to give up or go anywhere yet. They rocked up in Manchester on Wednesday evening to promote their latest record and we were there to check it out.
The crowd gathered at Manchester’s Academy for the show was older and vastly made up of couples, which is no surprise considering the romantic theme that runs throughout the group’s music. The not packed out but decently full venue paid witness to a professionally put together show from seasoned performers. These guys know what they are doing, and really they should by now after so many years of touring.
Lead vocalist Rzeznik demonstrated an easy charisma whilst performing and in between songs. He is a natural frontman, at ease with and enjoying his spotlight. Paying homage to Manchester, taking time to state it has ‘one of the greatest music scenes of all time’ he treated the audience with a self deprecating humour that felt reminiscent of joking around with an old friend. It made for a comfortable and almost cosy atmosphere, where nothing was potentially dangerous, frantic or exciting but instead laid back, warm and comfortable. It was like putting on an old movie you’ve seen a few hundred times, knowing you can rely on how it will end.
The show itself encompassed both new and old material, which Rzeznik was bizarrely self-effacing about. In reality he needn’t have apologised. New track ‘Rebel Beat’, a strong melodic summery pop song from album ‘Magnetic’, stood up easily alongside older hits. Rzeznik’s voice was still on fine form. Husky, deep and instantly recognisable it has lost none of its edge over time.
Perhaps one thing Rzeznik was right about though was that most people were probably there because they knew they would be treated to some of the older hits. Rather than hating that they still have to play them, Goo Goo Dolls seemed appreciative and grateful to still be performing them. The first few chords of Iris, the band’s biggest hit, were met with an exuberant round of applause; if this song wasn’t the reason most people fell in love with this band it’s definitely one of the reasons they’ve remained fans for so long. A timeless romantic power ballad, Iris has been covered so many times by so many different artists that it’s a genuine pleasure to hear the original version once more. The Manchester crowd held onto every word, singing along in unison like ‘a gang of angels’ as Rzeznik labelled them.
While the Goo Goo Dolls aren’t the most intense or memorable of rock bands, they are energetic enough to entertain. If they continue to produce these commercial sweeping pop-rock ballads, they’ll continue to hold a fan base because there will always be a place in the market for music with this kind of sentiment. And people will most likely always want to see it performed live even if it isn’t a show that stays with them for a long time afterwards. The Goo Goo Dolls are like the musical equivalent of the good friend everyone wants; fun, reliable and they can always seem to find a way to make you smile. This band wont always make you jump around, you probably wont rave about their live show for years to come, but it will make its mark on you at the time.