Perhaps one of the most remarkable achievements for the Goo Goo Dolls in 25 years of making music is their consistent ability to write and deliver catchy commercially successful songs.
It’s a quality few bands can claim.
And while they may never again capture the kind of global success they did with 1998’s “Dizzy Up the Girl” — the album that propelled them to international fame — Monday night’s show at the Pikes Peak Center reinforced that the band has carved out a significant place in pop culture consciousness.
Sickness, no doubt, hindered lead singer and guitarist John Rzeznik throughout the evening. He disclosed early in the show that he was relying on cold medicine, and more than once dropped songs’ high notes to a lower register, presumably to save his lungs and preserve his strained voice.
Regardless, he and bassist Robby Takac — the band’s other founding member — maintained an impressive energy throughout the show, backed by drummer Mike Malinin, guitarist Brad Fernquist and Korel Tunador on guitar, keyboards and saxophone.
Takac repeatedly shot back and forth across the austere-set stage, lifting his knees high and fiercely pounding his bass while flashing wide-eyed glances to the adoring crowd, made up of people as young as teenagers and couples old enough to be their parents.
Not surprisingly, the band drew mostly from their treasured hit songs — and there are many — shying away from their earliest work save for “Name,” the song from “A Boy Named Goo” that positioned the band for their blowout follow-up success with “Iris.” Seven of the band’s songs alone came from “Dizzy,” followed by four each from “Gutterflower” and “Let Love In.”
“We wouldn’t be playing for you at all if it weren’t for that song,” Rzeznik said in reference to “Name.” “Thanks for keeping this band together for 15 years” (a reference to the band’s work after the departure of then-drummer George Tutuska in 1995).
The Dolls also gave fans a preview of three songs from their new album, “Something for the Rest of Us,” slated for release in July. They opened with “Sweetest Lie” — an arena rock anthem about a longing for the electric passion shared with a past lover. Its lyrics follow a similar theme found through many of the band’s songs — that the world is often a cold, difficult and bitter place destined to let us down.
At times the intimate setting of the venue almost seemed too small for the band’s soaring sound. But the crowd didn’t seem to mind, standing for the entire performance, quietly swaying along with with Rzeznik during “Black Balloon” while batting around — ahem, yes, black balloons — that spilled into the audience, then singing along with hopeful song “Better Days.”
But it was in the final four songs that the Dolls truly shined. Rzeznik’s beautiful rendition of “Acoustic No. 3″ led right into “Iris,” arguably their most anticipated song of the night, ending an hour and 15-minute main set.
Rzeznik appeared a few minutes later to deliver another soulful, gentle acoustic solo in “Sympathy” before everyone returned to the stage for a classic, upbeat performance of “Broadway,” a pleasantly surprising ending for the Goo Goo Dolls, who must be commended for playing songs fans wanted most.
And hearing their latest work, it’s clear even more will be added to that list.
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Daniel Petty is a Denver-based photographer and social media editor at The Denver Post.
Denise Chambers is a Denver freelance photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of her work here.