Goo Goo Dolls Come a Long Way Home to the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center

Written and photography by Heather Vale

It’s been three years since I saw the Goo Goo Dolls and reviewed them for the Las Vegas Informer. But the band has been busy touring and writing almost constantly since then. In fact, they’ve been doing that since they formed in 1986 in Buffalo, New York.

Not many bands have a solid 30-plus-year career. Not many bands continue churning out hits for over three decades. But the Goo Goo Dolls have logged 14 Top 10 radio hits and sold over 12 million copies of their eleven studio albums. Their latest release is a 5-song EP, You Should Be Happy

To celebrate, they performed at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center on July 15 with special guest Phillip Phillips. At first I thought it was an odd pairing. After all, the former American Idol winner was born after the Goo Goo Dolls had already been playing for several years. But he does have a hit called “Home,” just as the headliners have a hit called “Home” … and the tour is called the Long Way Home Tour. So I guess it all maybe makes sense.

The headliners started their set with a brand new song, “Tattered Edge – You Should Be Happy.” They then slid right into some old favorites, “Home” and “Slide.” Frontman and songwriter John Rzeznik smiled, saying, “You guys know this one!” as the opening riff for “Slide” rang out to welcoming cheers.

Rzeznik switched out guitars for each song like he always does, but his selection seemed a bit smaller than in the past. And with his trademark blonde mop held back by a simple hairband, he seemed to have a more casual vibe than usual. It reflected the casual venue well – an outdoor space carved out between the downtown buildings, tucked away behind the craziness of the Fremont Street Experience.

Bassist and co-founder Robby Takac, on the other hand, didn’t hold anything back. He bounced and jumped around the stage so quickly, covering such a large space in such a short time, that I could barely get a photograph of him.

After the first few songs, Rzeznik asked the audience what they’d like to hear. “Don’t say ‘Iris,’” he chided. Obviously the band would be playing their biggest hit, the No. 1 song on Billboard’s Top 100 of 1992-2012 and the featured song from the movie City of Angels. Although he did make us wait until the end of the night to hear it.

I have never heard anyone say, “I don’t like the Goo Goo Dolls.” Their music is infectious, popular enough to be accessible yet alternative enough to be cool. Their lyrics make it easy to claim various tunes as “our song.” Personally there are several songs that remind me of my ex-husband and several more that remind me of my last boyfriend. Yes, that makes it difficult to watch the show without some emotions welling up, both positive and negative. But it’s emotions, after all, that tie us to things, so many of us feel a great personal connection to the band.

New songs like “Use Me” were sprinkled among a ton of Top 10 hits such as “Let Love In,” “Name,” “Flat Top,” “Broadway” and my favorite, “Better Days” – a song that inspired me to write blog posts and helped me get through a very tough time in my life.

Rzeznik got a break as Takac took over the mic for “Already There” and “Bringing on the Light.” His punk-rock style was a good complement to Rzeznik’s raspy pop voice, and I don’t think Takac gets enough credit for being an integral part of the band.

The stage setting was quite simple, with colored LED panels and spotlights punctuated by just the right amount of smoke. The hit song “Black Balloon” was accompanied by black balloons launched into the audience, a signature move of the band. To follow up, the final song “Long Way Home” featured white balloons and confetti shot into the crowd.

And yes, of course, they played “Iris” while the audience sang along: “When everything’s meant to be broken, I just want you to know who I am.”

I don’t foresee this band slowing down any time soon. I expect them to continue writing great songs and playing crowd-pleasing shows for another decade or two. While I wouldn’t follow the band around the country to every single concert, like the ladies I met in the front row are currently doing, I would be very happy to see them again when they come through Las Vegas next time.



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