Gig Review: The Goo Goo Dolls at Rock City

Words: Charlotte Gould
Photos: Rae Dowling
Wednesday 28 June 2023
reading time: min, words

Charlotte Gould saw rock legends The Goo Goo Dolls return to Rock City...

Leftlion (5)

Talbot street couldn’t be seen for the swarm of revellers, from die hard Goo Goo fans with their Mohawks, leather jackets and band tees to curious first timers in their summer weather wear. As the sun began to set it was clear that the day was only getting started.

Inside the venue the atmosphere simmered with anticipation. Shrouded in a cloak of smoke, the stage stood as an illuminated pedestal, a promise of a good night ahead, delivered by rock legends The Goo Goo Dolls and their support act Those Damn Crows.

Opening the night with anthemic, high energy track Who Did It?, the Bridgend based band, Those Damn Crows, set the pace for the rest of the evening. Vocalist, Shane Greenhall dominated the stage, his showmanship unrivalled as he danced on speakers and engaged with the crowd.

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Taking us on an audio tour of their latest album, Inhale/Exhale, Those Damn Crows are truly breath-taking with their performance. Their songs sound like a soul hungry for more out of life - one that despite hardship and rejection is seen through by perseverance. This is especially the case with stand-out track Man on Fire, a cathartic, two fingers up moment that saw the crowd go wild. Despite Greenhall’s surprise that this album reached Number 3 in the charts, it is clear to anyone in the crowd as to why.

With guitars lowered and drums catching their breath Greenhall had sauntered over to the piano - an instrument, that before this night, I wouldn’t have associated with hard rock. A softer, slightly unsettling sound flooded the room as we were submerged into their next track, This Time I’m Ready.

Aggression can be an armour against vulnerability, a defence against what we worry will be judged as weak, when actually, being true to one’s emotions is the greatest sign of strength. This Time I’m Ready expertly showcases the importance of coming to terms with our emotions, encouraging us to let everything go. Exploring themes different to previous tracks such as coming to terms with loss, the internal conflict trigged through grief and trying to persevere despite feeling powerless, this track offers a moment of reflection. Despite its explosive chorus with the distinctive rock shreds and fast paced beat, this song is predominantly a slow burner as it reminds us that it takes time to heal.

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Concluding their set with the optimistic See You Again, the crowd become its own sound - a consistent clap overpowering the propulsive drumbeat, with the occasional whoop or whistle from a reveller.  Greenhill’s soaring vocals echoed back from the fans, the sound of hope a fitting end to a fighting performance.

Once more, the lights descended, and our musical lighthouse became shrouded in a veil of fog. A rush to the bar, some Instagram scrolling and a half an hour worthwhile wait later, a dance tune oozed from somewhere backstage, an audible angel providing light through the haze. After a few more cheers from the crowd, the floor stood still, apprehending the electricity The Goo Goo Dolls were about to bring.

Suddenly the crowd is submerged in the booming bass and satirical sound of Yeah, I Like You from their latest album Chaos in Bloom. Contrary to its high tempo and 90s-esque post-grunge era guitar sound, this song pokes fun at those addicted to arrogance and vanity. Perhaps it’ pacing deliberately reflects the instant gratification that haunts the heads of this generation due to the ‘just add water’ nature of success showcased on social media.

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With songs such as Going Crazy and Loving Life, Chaos In Bloom is a love letter to loyalty, whether that be to the fans, to new connections or to oneself. It not only showcases how far The Goo Goo Dolls have transformed as a band, but also echoes who they used to be.

From their beginnings in 1986 as a cover band, The Goo Goo dolls have been bringing storms to stages with the same energy and passion at each performance. Last seen in Nottingham three years ago, they returned with the same zealous that saw them win two Grammy awards in 1999. John Rzeznik’s razor-sharp vocals and Robby Takac’s quick fingered, booming bass still have power reminiscent of their 90s hayday.

When faced with ailments in life, we all wish for something to aid our recovery. Pleading for a quick fix to stop the pain, only to realise you can’t put a plaster on a mental wound and just hope that it will stop bleeding. If only there was a Miracle Pill to fight off feelings. Of course this rhythmic banger, from their previous album of the same name, saw the crowd sway with a breeze on the dancefloor. The slower pace of this song reminds us that we have to be patient with our recovery - broken bones do not mend quicker if you beat them up more.

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Rzeznik is a self-aware show man, toying with the crowd, apologising at his feeble attempts to encourage audience participation. His charming tone and powerful vocals do the trick though as the fans sing alongside him, swaying their hands to and fro and clapping in time to the music. His conversation is reassuring and when he introduced Sympathy by saying “this song is about self-pity, which is a hobby of mine” there was a collective chuckle as each individual silently recalls a time when they have spent nights wallowing in loathing over something they can’t control. In this moment we realise this man on stage is just like us and we feel less alone.

As the crowd moved and moshed to songs such as Bringing On The Light, Better Days and Broadway, the sense of anticipation felt tighter. Everyone was enjoying themselves, perhaps a few may have fallen back to quickly flicking through Instagram. There was a sense of held breaths, whisperings of “it has to be next.” The build up is teased for a few more songs, Not Broken and cult favourite Long Way Down, until that iconic guitar twang rumbles from the speaker. Tears in eyes and phone torches held high, the crowd were almost louder than Rzeznik as he belted out the song that took the band from their humble beginnings to instant recognition. Iris is as soft but as powerful as a whisper, a song about feeling isolated that brings so many people together through their shared experience of love and loss. The shredding guitar and consistent drum beat sounds angered and hurt, yet through this pain there is comfort. Both musician and listener know that this is a shared experience, something they will face and overcome together.

I always believed that rock music was synonymous with energy, raging against establishment, and songs made for those who headbang and pog. Which it sometimes is, but it is also motivational - a testament to perseverance, breaking through angst and challenging the mundanity of daily life. Experiencing The Goo Goo Dolls live, I realised that rock music, especially stand out songs like Here is Gone and Iris, creates the most aggressive, passionate form of love song, and it is the sound of a broken heart still beating.

The Goo Goo Dolls performed at Rock City on June 19 2023.

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