Those in attendance when the Goo Goo Dolls played a triumphant homecoming gig during a rainstorm in front of City Hall on July 4, 2004, will never forget it. Far fewer will remember one of the band’s first gigs, 17 years previous to that City Hall show, almost to the day. That earlier concert took place in an AmVets banquet hall in the Black Rock neighborhood.
Goo’s bassist Robby Takac is one of those few.
“Yeah, I remember it well,” he laughed during a recent phone interview. “It was almost as awesome as the time in 1986 when we played on my front porch, on Elmwood Avenue.”
Across the expanse of a 28-year career, one that has seen it morph from a scruffy garage band into the most commercially successful Buffalo-born rock act of its generation, the Goo Goo Dolls have witnessed the dynamic extremes of the rock ’n’ roll life. The group started out playing dives in Buffalo.
These days, it headlines concerts in outdoor amphitheaters and “sheds.”
The original trio of founding members Takac, John Rzeznik and drummer George Tutuska, is now the duo of Rzeznik and Takac with a variety of hired backing musicians. Regardless of its commercial status or lineup, the Goos have always made Buffalo shows special affairs tinged with the excitement of a homecoming.
Over the next few months, the Goos are ramping up a commitment to Western New York with three concerts scheduled between Saturday and Aug. 22. That might seem like a surfeit of Goo-ness, even for the true blue Buffalonian Goo fanatic, but all three shows will present the band in vastly different formats.
The first gig, a sold-out show Saturday in the Bear’s Den at the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, will take the shape of what the band is referring to as “the Otis Midnight Sessions,” with Rzeznik, Takac and select friends performing in an intimate, acoustic environment.
On April 29, the band returns for its first performance in Buffalo proper since a fan appreciation show in the Town Ballroom in 2006, when it takes over the North Park Theatre for a special engagement that is, in a sense, a sort of “Otis Midnight Sessions” on steroids. The Goos will perform with a string section, auxiliary musicians, and in solo and duo scenarios for lucky fan club members in the beautifully renovated movie palace, and the whole lot of it will be recorded by multiple cameras for an upcoming concert film and documentary. It, too, is sold out.
Finally, the band will get back to its summertime bread and butter, with a outdoor tour that finds the Goos paired with rock band Daughtry. That jaunt will include a stop Aug. 22 at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.
That’s a lotta Goo, Buffalo. But the diversity of programs makes each gig a must-see for fans. And certainly, the demand is there. One band insider told me the Goos probably could have packed the Bear’s Den for in excess of five shows, and part of the reason for the addition of the North Park gig was to satisfy regional fan demand for further intimate, acoustic encounters with the band.
When it comes to Goos shows in Buffalo over the years, almost everyone you ask is going to have a different opinion on what constitutes the best of the bunch.
If you are old enough to have seen the band at the Continental in the early days, odds are, you are more inclined to favor an intimate, high octane and boozy club gig over a latter-day amphitheater spectacle.
If you got into the band during the success of the more pop-leaning “Name” and “Iris,” your first exposure to the Goos might have been via a performance at Darien Lake.
There is a tendency among the listeners who can recall the band performing in the Old Pink Flamingo on Allen Street to suggest that, once the Goos hit the big time and connected with the mainstream, the sloppy punk urgency of the early stuff was gone forever, the band having effectively sold out. Yet, a look at the other side of the coin suggests that, with the diminishing of the roughshod intensity and uber-present Replacements influence came a deepening of the songwriting craft. Time passes, people grow up, and bands change.
The only thing that Goos fans of various ages seem to agree on is that the 2004 show in front of City Hall was an epic gig.
THE Goo Goo DOLLS rock western New York
Here’s a look back at the 2004 City Hall show and few other memorable ones among the many area Goo Goo Dolls performances:
New World Record, February 1993
The Goos played an in-store concert in this beloved and dearly missed independent record shop, in celebration of the album that is my favorite in the group’s discography, “Superstar Car Wash.” There was a palpable sense that things were about to take off in a major way for the band. And they were.
Thursday at the Square, Lafayette Square June 1993
The band set an attendance record for this summer series, and a considerable party atmosphere prevailed throughout. This was the show that really put Thursday at the Square on the map as an attractive gig for both local and touring artists. Goos friend and local legend Lance Diamond shared the bill.
Buffalo Memorial Auditorium April 1996
The first hometown arena show for the band. Just as all the years of hard work seemed to be paying off, all of a sudden, a rock band from Buffalo appeared poised to become a major commercial force in the world. “Playing the Aud for the first time was just incredibly satisfying for me,” Takac said. “I mean, I saw Cheap Trick and Kiss and so many other shows there as a kid. Playing there with my band was just a dream come true.”
Marine Midland Arena September 1996
This was officially the big time for the band. Packing the newly opened arena represented a significant step up from the old Aud. “It was our first time at the arena, and my Grandmother was there that night,” recalled Takac. “Unforgettable.”
City Hall July 2004
The stage was set, the film crews were all in place, and the city had been buzzing about the show for weeks. So, of course, it rained. And rained. And rained some more. There was a point – visible in the band’s subsequent DVD release – where the wind was blowing the rain sideways in what appeared to be thick black sheets of water. Everyone was beyond soaked. Yet somehow, it added to the experience, as the band kept playing despite the torrential downpour, and an air of giddiness prevailed among the crowd. It just felt so Buffalo, the whole thing.
“That’s gotta be No. 1,” Takac said. “Hard to believe it was 10 years ago already. It feels like yesterday! That’s the one, the best Buffalo show so far.”
The Town Ballroom April 2006
Just as the band was about to drop its eighth album, “Let Love In,” this fan appreciation party in the Town Ballroom before roughly 800 lucky attendees brought us back to the early days of Goo-mania. The Goos always seem to thrive in this sort of intimate and immediate atmosphere, and this show was no exception. I recall thinking that the new songs sounded more muscular and full in the concert setting than they did on the album.