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Singer Johnny Rzeznik has Civic Center audience eating out of his hands

By Phil Luciano (pluciano@pjstar.com)
Journal Star
Posted May 17, 2010 @ 12:17 PM
Last update May 17, 2010 @ 08:36 PM

Sometimes, memorable concerts are defined by bombastic, exceptional moments.

Other times, though, an exceptional show arrives via an almost inexplicably remarkable connection between performer and audience.

Into the latter category shines Sunday night's Goo Goo Dolls set at the Civic Center Theater. By sheer sincerity of mind and voice, John Rzeznik had 1,800 spectators riveted on his nearly every move.

On "Better Days," his offering of "tonight's the night the world begins again" resonated with real hope. On "Iris," his pledge of "I'd give up forever to touch you" sounded as if he would be willing to die right there. And on "Black Balloon," after he crooned, "I'll go on and I'll lead you home," you would find hardly a person in the venue who wouldn't have followed him anywhere, this mussed-hair pied piper, had he been wont to deliver as the line promises.

He chatted amiably with the crowd, easily falling into chuckling. When one female front-row fan held up an enormous pair of granny-panties, a smiling Rzeznik blurted, "Dude, put your drawers back on!"

Another time, a St. Louis Cardinals cap flew toward the stage; Rzeznik snatched it out of the air and briefly plopped it onto his head. Chicago Cubs fans must've been there in force, as a chorus of boos erupted. A smiling but confused Rzeznik asked earnestly, "Is this the wrong team?" - prompting grins all around.

The likability factor isn't hurt by the fact that Rzeznik, casually clad a in rumpled, black button-down shirt and trousers, proffers a laconic sexiness - one that comes off as exciting to gals and cool to dudes. His appearance puts on no pretense, the songster content to let his art carry its own weight.

Mind you, not all of the set list bulged with intense meaning or ballads. Much of the 90-minute show popped with punch, such as the shuffling "Slide," gamboling "Stay With You" and slam-banging closer "Broadway." Meanwhile, the musicianship of the quintet - the Goo trio of guitarist Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac and drummer Mike Malinin, plus two sidemen - was spot-on. The only complaint: A couple times, Rzeznik & co. started noodling around and approached an intriguing acoustic groove, only to pull back way too soon. Let it breathe, boys.

In front of a minimal stage set-up, the outfit offered several glimpses of the upcoming album, "Something for the Rest of Us." The best of the bunch could be "Home," a plaintive number that interplays the typical Rzeznik contemplation and bounce.

Throughout, the show flowed nicely, for the most part. Still, offerings from Takac - "Another Second Time Around," "Tucked Away," "Smash" - seemed at times excessive and out of place. Granted, he used to be the band's lead singer, and a change of pace is never a bad thing in concert - in measured doses. But his hints of punk and grunge seem far from what Goo has become; even the diehards in the front rows seemed bored with him after a while. Plus, there's a reason Rzeznik is the lead singer these days: He's way better.

Source: http://www.pjstar.com/entertainment/x1381049266/Review-Goo-Goo-Dolls-leader-exudes-coolness
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