|A once little-known pop-punk band of the late 1980s is now one of the most popular mainstays on Top 40 radio. Early in their career, the Goo Goo Dolls were trying everything they could to be heard on any kind of radio station, now it is almost impossible not to hear them. But this success didn’t come without suffering, but it did come when the band seemed to be a poster child for movie soundtracks.
When Meg Ryan came on the TV for a commercial for City Of Angels, The Goos were blasted into the ears of millions of households, making their ballads such as “Slide,” “Name” and “Iris.” During their hype and tour around Dizzy Up the Girl, bassist Robby Takac told me, “It’s great. We get all these secretaries out to our show expecting a bunch of soft ballads, and we send them home with their ears bleeding.” That is the great mystery behind the Goo Goo Dolls. Though writing softer then their four not-so MTV-watcher acclaimed records, the Goos still have the mentality of a hard rock/pop-punk band. That is what gives them an edginess to their live show that can outweigh some of the lighter tracks they burst through on stage like a running back through an offensive line.
Believe it or not, before “Iris” became a Grammy-nominated, No.1 hit even Casey Kasem seemed to enjoy, The Goo Goo Dolls were on the 1991 Freddy’s Dead soundtrack on Metal Blade Records. Yes the same Metal Blade Records that burst eardrums with bands like Gwar, Vomitory and Cannibal Corpse. This is the same band that now plays on light rock stations.
So, while playing this soft rock that secretaries and soccer moms like to pop in their mini-vans and SUVs, the Goos grew up and played rock that kids with mohawks and leather listened to. So, what did the audience consist of? Well, secretaries and guys in khaki and young girls in Abercrombie. But that didn’t stop the band from still having fun and playing a set that consisted of a lot of older songs that 90 percent of those in attendance had never heard. In other words, the Goos rocked even though most of the crowd looked upon shell-shocked.
It was when they played their Top 40 hits that the crowd would finally get into the band, but otherwise it was a lackluster crowd who were too busy squinting wondering what in the hell the band was playing rather than dancing along. Which made the fun guitarist/singer Johnny Rzeznik, Takac and drummer Mike Malinin all the better to watch. The band never looked happier then when playing an obscure tune and to see Takac sing a few times was worth the price of admission in itself. Sounding like a mix of C.C. DeVille of Poison and, well, an out of tune guitar, was awesome! “So long,” over-produced and over-played ballad and “Hello” to the roots of the Goos.
Supporting their new release, Gutterflower, the Goo Goo Dolls have again put out a CD that seems much more toned then the personality of the band. With plenty of pop radio sound, there is little doubt why the album is selling well and why you can hear the single, “Here Is Gone” on Top 40 radio. But live, with onlookers looking as bewildered as a Southerner watching curling in the Olympics, is when the band shines. Their roots were in punk, maybe not the Ramones, Sex Pistols punk, but punk nonetheless. And when the played what they wanted to a crowd that left not all pleased with the set list, the Goos were able to let out some of that punk in them. Calling the Goo Goo Dolls punks would surely put a smile on their face. So, as those secretaries and soccer moms and salesmen and accountants headed back to their Mercedes and BMWs and Nissan Pathfinders this night in Columbus dismayed in finding out the Goo Goo Dolls had music before 1998 and Dizzy Up The Girl, the three punks on stage as well as their added touring band members I am sure had fun on the bus traveling to the next parking lot filled with $40,000 cars and $100 pairs of shorts.