SAN FRANCISCO -- Surging on the strength of the single, "Iris,"
from their September release, Dizzy Up the Girl, the Goo Goo
Dolls have truly hit the big time, and Tuesday night at the Fillmore
auditorium, the band let everyone know.
From their entrance -- during which a droning organ filled the mostly full venue and the darkened stage gave way to bright, white flashing lights -- to their feedback-drenched, show-closing meltdown of the normally acoustic "Two Days in February," the Goo Goo Dolls made it clear they're here and they're rock stars, for better or worse.
Long lumped with the fierce pack of contenders eager to fill the large, untied shoes of rowdy indie-rockers the Replacements, the Goo Goo Dolls -- with their glammy, metal-edged power-pop -- always seemed a step or two left of the dial from the hair bands that dominated the late '80s, such as Mötley Crüe and Poison. A good lyric here and a cool chord change there won them critical acclaim in the underground catacombs of indie-rock and kept them safely out of the realm of cheesy metal.
Now, having outgrown the small clubs they inhabited for many of their 13 years as a band, the Goo Goo Dolls have left behind the guitar/bass/drums, plug-'em-in approach in favor of a stadium-style rock show.
Amid the flashing spotlights -- aimed stadium-style at the audience rather than the band -- singer/guitarist Johnny Rzeznik flounced onto the stage, sporting a sassy new blond-rocker bob, a white tank-top, the mandatory tattoos, black leather pants, a dog collar, lipstick, fingernail polish and eyeliner. Kicking off the set, he led the Buffalo, N.Y.-based outfit into the power-chord-propelled "Long Way Down," a song featured prominently on the Twister soundtrack.
The mostly late-20s crowd was much more familiar with the sweeping, heartfelt ballad "Iris"(RealAudio excerpt), which shot up the charts this summer as part of the City of Angels soundtrack, and "Name"(RealAudio excerpt), the dusky acoustic number from 1995's A Boy Named Goo.
With guitarist Nathan December and keyboardist Dave Schulz tacked on to the most recent core unit of Rzeznik, longtime bassist/vocalist Robby Takac and drummer Mike Malinin, the Goo Goo Dolls have gone in neck-and-crop for the big rock show, replete with swirling spotlights and gape-mouthed rock-poses.
While Rzeznik slashed dramatically at each guitar he played -- there were many, each identifiable by its different stickers, such as "Crap," "Kiss" and "Lawyers Suck" -- Takac evoked the Addams Family's Cousin Itt, with his brown stringy hair masking his face as he played.
Prior to launching into the familiar strains of "Name," Rzeznik took time out to explain the circuitous trajectory of the tune. As he told it, "Name" grew from a few chords strung together on his acoustic guitar in his living room, to a song he said the band buried on its album, to a song he heard on the radio and in the supermarket, to a song he said some of the band's longtime fans resent because of its success.
Recounting a letter he received from a fan dubbed "Mr. Indie-Punk-Rock Guy," Rzeznik detailed the fan's outrage at the song, then won a lusty cheer from the crowd with his response: "Dear Mr. Indie-Punk-Rock Guy, you're a d---. Eat a bag of s---."
Despite directing some pointed darts at the holier-than-thou indie-rock types who slag the Goo Goo Dolls for their newer material, the five-piece outfit closed the show with a healthy helping of tunes from 1990's Hold Me Up. They romped through the anthemic "Just the Way You Are" and "There You Are" before Takac and Rzeznik returned as a duo for the rough-edged "Two Days in February."
The show opened with a set from the Boston-based guitar-pop trio Buffalo Tom, who blended material from a catalog several albums deep with tracks from their latest LP, Smitten.
The Goo Goo Dolls' indie-rock edge might be a thing of the past, but if fans such as the ones who packed the Fillmore on Tuesday night keep coming, the newly arena-ready Dolls won't be going away any time soon.