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Young and old alike showed up at the campus of Edison State College in Fort Myers to hear the boys from Buffalo play the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall…a pleasant surprise for this local resident of Florida’s quieter coast. Bands of commercial success with the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls usually stop by Southwest Florida only to gas up the tour buses in between shows in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.

The hearing aids of some in the crowd were warmed up by the opening act Ryan Star, who rocked the hall and sounded much like Gavin Rossdale of Bush.

After the intermission, everyone settled into their seats with wine & cocktails in hand and the band eagerly took the stage with their opening song, the driving tune “Sweetest Lie.” Not wasting any time, Johnny Rzeznik slid right into the next song and got everyone on their feet with their huge hit “Slide.” As the shoeless bass player Robby Takac stepped up to the microphone for the first of his two obligatory pairs of songs, he told the story of how their bus broke down twice en route from their previous show in Louisiana. Having never played Fort Myers, he verbally expressed his relief that they were able to make it here for us, and musically expressed his determination to not disappoint with energetic renditions of “Smash” and “January Friend.”

The band rounded the bend and settled into a steady pace of solid, anthemic ballads as the show progressed. Johnny took several breaks to make commentary on his needing a haircut because he was starting to look like Shaun Cassidy. He reminisced how the feeling of “winning the lottery” with their first mega-hit “Name”, quickly turned to dread when he was asked to “win it” a second time. Even his off-handed remark, “I really like this song” before a very heartfelt rendition of “Become”, was an interesting surprise.

One of the biggest responses from the crowd came with the piano intro as Johnny declared “we all need some Better Days”, and even stronger with the familiar chords of the guitar and mandolin leading into Iris.

Overall it was a great show that sounded fantastic in a venue that was built for concerts. Reznik’s musicianship was apparent throughout the entire show, as he was never without a guitar around his neck. Takac’s enthusiasm was obvious as he relished every moment while singing his songs, and his energetic mobility was demonstrated as he visited every corner of the stage…and then some. Shoes would have only slowed him down.

The Goo Goo Dolls promised to return sooner, as they made some new friends down here. We’ll hold them to that!

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