A week back, we made the trek down to Mountain View to see Buffalo natives The Goo Goo Dolls at Shoreline Ampitheatre for a trip down 90’s nostalgia lane.
If you haven’t seen the towering circus tents of Shoreline Amphitheater, created for the Dead by Bill Graham himself, make time for the trip. It’s a well-designed venue with a typically rad lineup. I’d seen Blink 182 and Dead and Co. there recently, and it’s never disappointed (except for the always awful arena parking – pro-tip, get out a hair before the rest of the crowd or you’ll be stuck for hours crawling out through the Google buildings. Not recommended).
I’m not going to lie, I was incredibly excited for this show. I will never waver in my defense of feel-good pop rock. It has a relatable, fun place in so many people’s lives, especially my own, and I’ve always been a sucker for the lush, often cinematic soundscape The Goo Goo Dolls never disappoint with. Danger!Sound photographer and avowed non-mainstream music purist Ray De Ation was a little less so. His reasons for attending were mainly to feed off of my blind stoke and his entertainment at the prospect of all of the crying I was guaranteed to do when those emo teen jams like “Iris” and “Black Balloon” were played. Even with his commentary, “but did you know they started as a punk band? That stuff was great, doubt they’ll play any of it though…” he was a good sport, paid for our incredibly overpriced beers and settled in for the long haul.
American Idol darling Phillip Phillips’ opening was a nice start to the show–one of the only words that comes to mind is pleasant. Their pairing for this tour was a fitting choice, and sure to be a good call financially, because his breezy songs paired nicely with the subsequent energy of The Goo Goo Dolls. But when Johnny and the rest of The Goo Goo Dolls gang took the stage, they commanded it. Their energy was infectious, and with the exception of seeming a little tired of singing some of their biggest hits, they kept the stadium singing along and fully interested. Even Ray got into it by the end.
This can fully attributed to the fact that, deceptively, The Goo Goo Dolls have churned out enough hits to fill their entire almost two hour long set without losing momentum.
I often take for granted that the Goo Goo Dolls have been an ever-present fixture on radio and in pop culture. After the albums of their prime, A Boy Named Goo and Dizzy Up The Girl, they’ve stayed relevant through the sheer volume of albums they’ve released with one or two great hits on them, airtime on every popular TV show that’s come along, and credit song singles for franchises like Transformers. That sticky staying power has cemented them (and Johnny’s vocals, which are still incredibly solid) as one of the more recognizable sounds in pop-rock. Combining this super-list of hits with quality production and bass player Robby’s barefooted energy creates one hell of an entertaining show.
I’d be lying if I said tears were not shed during “Come To Me” (one of their newer ones, but one of the sweetest popular love songs in recent memory) and the classic “Name.” I bopped along with all of the moms dolled up on their night off from the kids–if you can’t picture these gems, get yourself to the nearest state fair show stat. Each new song would start, and I’d be continually surprised by staples I didn’t expect like “Better Days” and “Sympathy.” Their new EP You Should Be Happy has a few solid tracks as well, most notably “Use Me,” a strong, catchy, angsty ballad that’s primed for it’s place in their catalog of hits.
(If you’re looking to take a deep dive into Ray’s punk point earlier, he recommends the entirety of the album Jed but especially the track “Up Yours.” [Ed. Note: “So Outta Line” from Hold Me Up is the perfect tipping point between the GGD of old and what they are now.] A call back to these roots with an opener that had a little more of a punk flair would have been fun, but again, they do know their ticket-buying summer audience.)
Ray’s photos from the pit demonstrate it perfectly–Johnny’s charisma is catching. Robby’s crazy-eyes and grin will make you want to dance right along with him. The lighting and staging were gorgeous and fully immersed you in the mood of the song. Pair this production with being hit with one nostalgic sucker-punch after another, and I had a blast. I’d venture to say anyone who was growing up anytime between 1990-2010 will be brought back to a whole mess of deep, sweet feelings you forgot The Goo Goo Dolls were the soundtrack to. If you can find tickets to their 2017 tour, just do it. You’ll thank me later… probably while trying to hide how choked up you really got by the end.