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Last night was the first time the power balladeering/power pop stars Goo Goo Dolls (read our recent interview with them here) had played in Victoria for about 200 years (okay, since 1988), so it was no surprise that I was surrounded by women of varying ages (okay, mainly middle-aged) singing along to every word of the band’s tunes.

Well, every word of the Bon Jovi-an rockers and 2pm dishwashing ballads, that is; when the band played their faster, power-pop tunes, it was to the enjoyment of exactly three people in the seemingly packed Royal Theatre.

But I had the first of a couple epiphanies watching bassist Robby Takac bounce around doing his punk-rock goblin thing during those power-pop tunes: his songs always pale on the band’s albums, but live, they shine, with the power of early Soul Asylum and Replacements coming through in the ragged melodies and trashy sound. I came away from the concert with a new respect for his sometimes seemingly tossed-off punk songs and their purpose in the band.

I had another epiphany, and I had it while the band was playing insane ultra hit “Iris” (interestingly, when the band started the popular song, there was a reaction from the audience that, for a split second, sounded like disappointment… but I think it was just amazement, that this was actually happening in little Victoria, and no one knew how to react).

At first, I was readjusting myself in my chair, thinking two things: one, I’ve heard this song so many times (and, hey, it’s a good song): heard it while watching TV in the ’90s, heard it while sitting around aimless in coffee shops in the ’00s, heard it while squeezing avocados in the grocery store with my kids by side in the ’10s. I’ve just heard that song so many times, I don’t know if I can stand to hear it one more time, even live. Two, I don’t know if I can stand having the chorus of women around me sing the song (slightly off-key, natch).

Also, it’s a depressing song. What do I do when they’re playing it? I played some mean leg drums during the power pop songs, do I do that? (I ended up sitting with my hands clasped, which seems wholly inappropriate, but whatever. I was alone, it’s a sappy ballad, you tell me what to do.)

Anyway, right, the women. Up until that point, I was surprised that I didn’t find their singing along annoying; rather, I was kind of enjoying it. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of nostalgia surrounding bands like this at this point, and hearing these women sing along was charming. I wonder what was happening in their lives when they first heard “Slide,” “Naked,” or “Broadway” (all great tunes the band played tonight)? I know what was happening in mine. And suddenly, life came full circle and the power of music hit me for the millionth time and I got up and sung along at the top of my lungs to “Iris” with all the middle-aged women.

No, wait, that didn’t happen. Hmm. But I did sit there, bit of a sore neck from the position I was sitting in and bit of a sore back from life and a bit too much on my mind and suddenly the sound of the women singing along, pure joy in their voice, to a rather miserable and lonely song, was the best sound in the world to me. They were using “Iris” to live life and to love life, and I loved life then, too.

A solo performance of “Can’t Let It Go” from injured (that’s what the headline refers to; get your mind out of the gutter) singer/guitarist I-know-it’s-easier-to-spell-but-stop-calling-me-Jon-Bon-Jovi Johnny Rzeznik was a highlight: despite limping on stage due to having a bum foot (he had to sit for the whole show, which put a bit of a damper on proceedings; to be honest, you could tell he wasn’t too happy about it either) and a voice that ain’t what it used to be (c’mon, I ain’t what I used to be 15 years ago, either; you seen my slouch lately?), Rzeznik put his all into this number. But I do look forward to the band returning to town when the guy can actually stand up. And I hope the chorus of women fans joins me.

Also, I hope they play “Name” next time. One of the band’s biggest, and earliest, hits, it was odd they didn’t play it. Sure, it’s a sappy power ballad and I just listened to it 10 minutes ago and I’ve heard it so many times in my life it basically went in one ear and out the other, but, still. To the band’s credit, they spent a lot of time on newer material, and while the audience patiently waited to hear the hits, I was happy the guys were playing what they wanted to.

Openers Autumn’s Cannon may have a horrible name that is impossible to remember but they did a great job of warming up the crowd with their no-nonsense and fun take on classic rock. It was fun watching these guys; you could almost tell it was something special, that all-too-rare feeling you get watching a band that is working together so perfectly and is just excited to get their tunes out to people. With a sound that harkened back to the ‘70s, it went over well with those who find their pepper peppered with salt, which, at a Goo Goo Dolls show in a theatre in 2014, is not insignificant.

Leaving the theatre and stumbling out into the streets to face another rainy Victoria night, I was happy. Sometimes over time, songs turn into soundtracks for weighing produce at the grocery store while staving off incredible ennui as the weight of the world threatens to crush you; sometimes they come back to life in totally unexpected ways.

And sometimes that happens with the help of a chorus of off-key women singing along, turning the songs into something new altogether, something which you never thought you’d love the sound of.
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