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By Thom Jennings Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — There is at least one person who will not be reading this review — Johnny Rzeznik — who told an intimate crowd at Seneca Niagara’s Bear’s Den on Saturday that he is “too neurotic” to read reviews.

Rzeznik, and his longtime Goo Goo Dolls partner Robby Takac have nothing to worry about from this or any reviewer of the show, it was one that those in attendance will talk about for years to come.

The 440-seat Bear’s Den usually hosts artists whose drawing power has severely diminished. The Goo Goo Dolls are still headlining large arenas, and will be coming back in the area to perform at Darien Lake in August. So the real question is why did the group decide to embark on these small shows under the moniker “The Otis Midnight Sessions?”

One can only speculate that Rzeznik may have misses the synergy that comes with a small venue show. In venues of 10,000 or more the crowd rarely has the patience to sit through an entire story from an artist, and instead of the diehards in attendance, large shows draw their fair share of fair weather fans.

Those lucky enough to be in attendance Saturday night were treated to an intimate, and at times raucous affair, and they clearly had the opportunity to get to know the artists better.

Rzeznik is a true rock star, and yet he defied the rock star persona Saturday by telling a series of deeply personal stories, and engaging in some hilarious banter with the audience. It was impossible to leave this show without a deeper understanding of the man and his music.

On the subject of the music, the singing from both Rzeznik and Takac was powerful and emotional, the two seemed to be right at home in an intimate setting, and more often than not their musical performances drew a standing ovation.

Perhaps the greatest thing about Saturday’s show was that it felt like a proper homecoming for Rzeznik. In spite of the fact he no longer resides in the area, Rzeznik displayed a deep love for the Buffalo area, an explained in detail how the area impacted his songwriting, and his career.

Even though he won’t read this review, I would like to profoundly thank Rzeznik and the band for returning to an intimate setting and putting together a really special show. As I was leaving the venue, a woman sitting next to me said she had seen the band a number of times and this was by far her favorite show of all time.

And while I understand that the economics don’t dictate the Goo Goo Dolls being able to play many of these smaller shows, I hope it is something that they continue to do on a regular basis.
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