Admittedly, I have never labelled myself as a Goo Goo Dolls fan, per se.
When their first big single, Name, topped the charts in the fall of ’95, I was in my last year of high school and I can remember being impressed by the melodies in the song, and the catchy acoustic riff (played with a very odd and original guitar tuning).
And as I heard more of them, I thought they reminded me a bit of the Gin Blossoms, or moreover Soul Asylum — who I was a big fan of. And as their popularity increased with more hits like Slide, Black Balloon and then Iris, I certainly didn’t turn the dial on the radio station if one of them came on.
But again, a big fan I could not be categorized as.
So when I was getting geared up to head to their show at the Charlottetown Civic Centre last Saturday night — a stop on the Goo Goo Dolls’ 2011 tour promoting their new album, Something for the Rest of Us, I guess I just was at a loss for what to expect.
But the excitement in the air that I stepped into (not to mention the lack of parking spaces) at the Civic Centre was the first indication that it was time to wake up and smell the rockingness.
It was the conference centre space, not the arena space that was the venue — which I was happy about, as this always means a more up-close and engaging kind of performance experience for both player and audience alike.
As the opening act, Crash Parallel, was putting some intense and energy-filled finishing touches on their set when I came in, I could tell right off the bat that the sound coming out of the system was going to be superior.
(Often, of course, with performance areas such as this, the danger of a boomy and hollow tin-canny sort of sound exists — but, especially with the large crowd that filled out the space, the sound was cushiony, yet still tight and clear.
Really, it was some of the best concert sound I’ve ever heard, actually.
Then when the five Goo Goos made their entrance about 9 p.m., met by a clockwork response of a sea of glowing cell phone and digital cameras held high (our modern-age equivalent of flag-waving greetings, of course), complete with accompanying wild screams, the excitement level in the building went through the roof.
And I’ll tell you, right from their first song in (a powerful version of Sweetest Lie, a single from the new record) this band delivered — with so much polish and impeccability, with outstanding showmanship, and just with boundless positive energy.
Lead singer/guitarist John Rzeznik’s vocals couldn’t have sounded better: He did not hit a bad note through all the high registers that he danced around, and his tone quality was always remarkable. Bassist Robby Takac never stopped playing up to the crowd, and his punky/Angus Young-esque mannerisms made me laugh out loud a lot. And the three backing musicians on lead guitar, drums and keys/guitar/sax respectively, rounded out the sound in a big way.
Main set highlights included hits like Slide, Dizzy, Black Balloon (which was stopped right near its beginning by Rzeznik as he spotted a fight in the crowd, and it only started again once things had calmed down — something that was hugely cool), Name, Iris, and their last encored tune of the night, Broadway — which was just one wild rocker.
So, you see, when it’s done really well, this is the power of live music: As a band, you reassure and enchant all those you’ve had wrapped around your finger for years, and you win over a whole new set of the newly blown-away.
Next week: I’m back to the Civic Centre for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts kickoff tonight!