Monday, August 30, 2010

GOO GOO DOLLS: Better than Bon Jovi?
(08.29.10 - Greek Theatre, L.A.)

If I had a dollar for every person that says, "I loved the Goo Goo Dolls when they were on Metal Blade Records...", I'd have more money than the Goo Goo Dolls made in that early phase of their career.

I'm not that guy. I liked them then, but there were way too many bands I liked a whole lot more to really say that they stood out - until they started writing pop songs.

I turned to my wife a few songs into the Buffalo trio's show last night at the Greek Theatre and said, "I know you'll say I'm crazy, but the Goo Goo Dolls may have ousted Bon Jovi in my book..." To her credit, she didn't call me crazy - but she did give me the scrunched-up 'you're crazy' face, followed by a 'who are you, and what have you done with my husband' smirk.

Bon Jovi's reign of pop-rock supremacy began September 19, 1988, the day New Jersey was released and I first listened to the cassette in my high school parking lot. The album remains one of my all-time favorites, and to this day I maintain that "Lay Your Hands On Me" is one of the best opening tracks ever - live and on record. Yet, with every passing year, they fall a bit further down my musical hierarchy.

I still like them, I just don't love them. The easy explanation is that I outgrew them. The more complicated explanation details why I outgrew them - Bon Jovi shifted gears. They used to feel inspired and radiated an energy, now they're more inclined to repackage old plot lines to appease middle-aged women and win over country converts. That's fantastic marketing, I just don't fall into either group - I've lost the connection that burned throughout the '90s.

Which brings me back to the Goo Goo Dolls. I feel a connection to their songs that intensifies with every listen. "Iris" boasts one of my all-time favorite lyrics. "Broadway" is lined with brilliant wordplay. "Name" flames with passion. "Better Days" is a majestic snapshot of the human spirit. "Dizzy" swirls like a whirlwind.

Because the band are a master class in pop-rock songwriting, I don't mind that I can't seem to connect with their live show. I feel the songs - and as any music fan will agree, that's more than enough to make any concert a night to remember.

I like frontman Johnny Rzeznik, he just doesn't grab me live. It's as if he doesn't own the songs and he's just borrowing them, using them as a backdrop for the music video being choreographed each night onstage. The lighting is impressive and the smoke is a nice touch, but it's like watching 3D television - you ooh and aah a few times, but you never really feel like you're one with the show.

The band sounded great at the Greek Theatre, the performance just wasn't dynamic and alive - it's as if all of Rzeznik's focus is on looking the part of a VH1 heartthrob, and he's lost the spark that fueled him back in the more high-impact days of Hold Me Up and Superstar Car Wash. Bassist Robby Takac injects the show with a punk rock tailspin on the four tracks he sings, but I need more.

My solution? Strip the Goo Goo Dolls to their core and put them on a club tour. Don't just forget about style, go out of your way to defy it. You don't worry about your hair, you worry about staying hydrated. The focus should be on sweating through every song in an over-packed room where you can look your fans in the eye and visualize your connection. In the more intimate setting, you're pressed to interact, something that was non-existent last night.

Let the audience feel you feeling your music, then capture that energy and carry it over to the larger stages... Shift gears.

Could the Goo Goo Dolls be bigger than Bon Jovi? Not likely. But as far as being better goes, they've already got the songs. You know what that means? That's right - whoa, oh, they're halfway there...

I can say this much - if both Bon Jovi and the Goo Goo Dolls were in town on the same night, right now I'd be hard-pressed not to support the boys from Buffalo. Sorry, New Jersey.


1- Sweetest Lie
2- Big Machine

3- Slide

5- Here Is Gone

Another Second Time Around [RT vox]
7- Smash [RT vox]

Can't Let It Go
9- Black Balloon
10- Home
11- Better Days
12- Stay With You

Now I Hear [RT vox]
14- Tucked Away [RT vox]
15- Name
16- Let Love In
17- As I Am
18- All Eyes On Me
19- Acoustic No. 3
20- Iris

21- Not Broken
22- Broadway


princess7strawberry said...

Fantastic review!

Anonymous said...

Awesome review & I couldn't agree more. I saw them at a private show in OR several yrs ago. Club, 100 people maybe. Stage was only 6 inches high. Those of us who were up front could touch them if we were to be so bold. It was an experience I will never forget.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree,smaller settings are a cause to inter-act more intimately with the crowd. Found Mr Rzeznik a bit distant with his fans,interaction much less this tour. Still a very good cd

Hungarian Girl said...

Well, Bon Jovi is my No 1 favourite and Goo Goo Dolls is one of my favourites, but I have to agree that Bon Jovi is getting too... nostalgic? Slow? Old? I don't know, but they music is definitely more difficult to 'addict to' now than before. However, its undoubted that they became a part of rock history with their songs of the '80s, and probably more people will remember them than the Goo Goo Dolls - at least today it seems so.

sweetemotion64 said...

Great review! Absolutely spot on in regards to their life performance!!

Anonymous said...

From the pit (I was lucky enough to be on the rail) the show was totally engaging. John & Robby threw themselves into every song. John sang "Notbroken" like he'd just thought of it. The crowd (from my perspective) was enthusiastically singing along to every song, including the new ones.

The interaction seemed constant & very meaningful. Something happened there on the rail that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The affection between the band and the audience felt incredible.

I don't know how far back you were, but I'm really sorry that the warmth that I felt didn't reach you. That concert was one of the most memorable experiences of my long life.

It's all perception and location. I hope your next concert is more enjoyable and I hope you feel the connection that I experienced on Sunday night.

Labyrinth Gal said...

I missed the Bon Jovi bandwagon & was with U2 & The Cure in the 80's. I didn't really get into the GGD until this century. I know, right? *gasp* That said, I saw them at a smallish theatre last April & they were v. interactive. Johnny was totally connected to the audience--but then, I'm a chick, so maybe that's why. ;-) Hali

P.S. GGD stuff on my blog:

Anonymous said...

My husband and I just had this conversation tonight GGD vs BJ. We think the GGD are the talented of the two bands ( this is coming from two Jersey fans that live close to JBJ ). JR has a great voice and he only gets better with age!