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22nd October 2013

Live: Goo Goo Dolls

With newly released tenth album Magnetic in tow, Goo Goo Dolls are keen to prove they’re not just another nostalgia act.

Manchester Academy 1,

16th October, 2013


If you’ve ever happened to bring up the Goo Goo Dolls in conversation, you’ve likely received one of two responses – either “Christ, are they still about?” or “they did ‘Iris’, right? My mum loves that song.” Such is the current status of Buffalo, NY’s most famous sons; it’s been fifteen years since a slew of ballads and jangly rock anthems made them MTV and pop culture icons. Fast-forward to 2013, and, with newly released tenth album Magnetic in tow, the band are keen to prove they’re not just another nostalgia act.

After a warm-up set from the newly reformed, leopard-print loving Flesh for Lulu, the Goos kicked off proceedings in curiously low-key fashion with new album track ‘Last Hot Night’. However, it wasn’t until the early one-two punch of fan favourites ‘Slide’ and ‘Here is Gone’ that they properly got the crowd going. Their hit-heavy, slickly executed ninety minute set largely depended on their more subdued recent albums – save for 2010’s moody Something for the Rest of Us, which was omitted completely – all but ignoring the scrappy grunge pop of their formative years.

The band themselves seemed genuinely glad to be back on the live circuit, as frontman John Rzeznik – with his trademark mega-fringe hidden under an unassuming beanie – regularly bantered and shared personal stories with the crowd between songs, and bassist Robby Takac grinned and headbanged along enthusiastically to even their softest tunes. ‘Black Balloon’ and their breakout track ‘Name’ were highlights, both showcasing Rzeznik’s husky baritone, with the only real lull coming in the form of recent single ‘Rebel Beat’, as its electronic flourishes and layered sound came off comparatively flat in a live setting. Takac also stepped up to the mic on occasion, his piercing rasp carrying the band through some of the more upbeat tracks in the band’s catalogue such as ‘January Friend’ and ‘Crash’, providing brief, light hearted interludes in a show that was otherwise fairly ballad-heavy.

The band held off playing signature song and instant tearjerker ‘Iris’ until near the end, and its unveiling received raucous applause and an enthusiastic sing-a-long from fans; the years had clearly not numbed its show-stopping potential. The Bon Jovi-esque ‘Broadway’ ended the main set, which was capped off with a brief encore containing a vamped-up cover of Supertramp’s ‘Give a Little Bit’, which ended the gig on a positive, almost celebratory note.

On paper, their performance was expertly delivered; one thing that became immediately apparent is how the Goo Goo Dolls have, in the intervening years between Dizzy up the Girl and Magnetic, turned into a polished, veteran live band. Whether this is entirely a force for good, though, is unclear – they’ve managed to iron out most of their kinks and flaws, but there’s also a sense that they’ve lost some of their energy and intensity along the way. This could also be down to the setlist choices, as they seem to mellow out more and more with every passing record.

In short, the Goo Goo Dolls are a likeable and enjoyable live band, and deserving of their longevity, but I left the Academy with the feeling that I wished I’d been able to see them the first time around instead.

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