“Hello, my friends in filthy Buffalo!”
That was Goo Goo Dolls bassist/vocalist Robby Takac greeting his hometown crowd at Darien Lake on Friday evening, and simultaneously acknowledging the Westboro Baptist Church’s recent swipe at both the band and the city that birthed it.
Westboro folks are urging the apparently gullible and easily led to boycott the Goos’ upcoming show in Kansas City. If anyone within earshot of that nasty nonsense takes such advice to heart, they’ll miss out on something we here in “filthy” Buffalo have known for decades: The Goo Goo Dolls put on one heck of a rock ’n’ roll show.
The Goos came home for a full-on celebration Friday, following a pair of springtime area shows on their acoustic, string-adorned “Otis Midnight Sessions” tour. It was nice to see the band in the arena-rock environment again. They owned the stage Friday, and a fawning crowd made it plain that all were happy to have them home.
A muscular, exuberant set ensued, with frontman John Rzeznik appearing relaxed and commanding, sporting a new tightly trimmed haircut and quite obviously happy to be home.
The band hit the boards and slammed home a trio of killer power-pop tunes without saying much of anything in between. “Dizzy” packed a punch, “Big Machine” found Takac running from one side of the stage to the other and engaging the crowd with his seemingly limitless supply of enthusiasm, and “Slide” had the audience all but drowning the band out with a robust sing-along.
The set was hits heavy, for sure, and why wouldn’t it be? The band has plenty, and they gave us, in rapid succession, “Rebel Beat,” “Black Balloon” and “Here Is Gone” – undeniably infectious numbers all.
There were moments that reminded us of the scruffy punk band those of us of a certain age remember falling in love with nearly 25 years ago. When Takac sang his own “Already There,” and Rzeznik returned to his initial role in the band as its only guitarist, the Goos tore it up and paid homage to one of their biggest influences, the Replacements. This was killer stuff.
Rzeznik appeared to be genuinely moved by the crowd’s response throughout the evening.
“So, we are old friends,” he said at one point. “You guys and us. It’s always more difficult to play at home than it is anywhere else. ’Cuz I actually give a (expletive) what you people think.”
And then the band launched into a brand new song. Rzeznik did not mention its title, but its chorus suggested it might be called “Caught in the Storm.” Fans danced as if it was an old favorite.
Rzeznik wasn’t done engaging the crowd yet.
“I am truly enjoying myself tonight,” he said later. “It’s really cool, the big show, with all the lights and all, but ultimately, it comes down to a relationship that you and I have together, through the songs. I’m gonna dedicate this song to you guys tonight.”
And then they played “Name.” So. A home run.
Opener Daughtry did his best to warm the crowd up for its hometown heroes. In very good voice, and fronting an uber-tight band, the singer played all of his biggest tunes from the career he embarked upon post “American Idol.”
The problem with Daughtry is not the level of talent on stage, which is considerable.
Rather, the issue is the material, which tends to lean toward the generic and the wholly mediocre.
Unfortunately, the material itself fails to assert itself as anything other than bland, middle-of-the-road rock with a serious “Adult Top 40” streak.
That said, “filthy” Buffalo seemed to dig it.