Goo Goo Dolls Live At The Academy: Less Noise, More Melody

Though their whistful acoustic hit “Name” has catapulted Goo Goo Dolls from obscurity to ubiquity, the Buffalo-based band is better known for the seering, Replacement-inspired clamor evidenced on their post-punk LPs Jed and Hold Me Up.

Tuesday’s racous audience at New York’s Academy, however, were not soley MTV converts and had obviously hung with the band for the long haul. Hollering along with every tired refrain (“Burnin’ up inside! Burnin’ up inside!!”), the throngs — fists pumping, bodies flying — bathed in the relentless whitebread furey the Dolls enthusiastically delivered.

Bum rushing the set with nary a second’s pause between songs, the trio cruised through “Just the Way You Are,” “Burnin’ Up”, “Fallin’ Down” and Superstar Carwash’s full-tilt pean to misfortune, “Lucky Star,” before even acknowledging the audience. Grinning and preening with Bon Jovi self-consciousness, guitarist and lead singer John Rzeznik’s gritty tenor and massive AC/DC chops anchored the show. Though veering perilously into .38 Special territory at times, Rzeznik’s repetative, grandiose soloing did, at its best, recall a sober Bob Stimson staggering across the fretboard.

Bouncing and crouching Angus Young-like with his orange bass and Motly Crue haircut, Robby’s throbbing roots often mudied the three chord dirge. And when singing his less-melodic and more chaotic songs (“Burnin’ Up”, “Never Take the Place of Your Man”), his nasal screaming and phlegm-gnarled lyrics were far too Meatloafish. Still, spinning madly like a cyclone, Robby’s infectious senility pushed the band into overdrive.

The Dolls wound down quickly, the anthemic feedback of “Eyes Wide Open” giving way to the somber prom song-nominee “Name” flawlessly. Traipsing off stage after a blistering “Another Time Around”, the trio returned to crazed applause three times. The most telling of these encores stripped away the band’s electric veneer. Superstar Carwash’s “Girl”, and “Naked” and “Impersonality” from their recent release, Boy Named Goo, rocked with equal authority as their electric counterparts, thanks in great part to drummer George’s Ringo-on-speed grounding.

Rzeznik’s vocal hooks, though, benefitted from the absence of the crushing din, dipping and soaring beautifully. Like Soul Asylum before them, Goo Goo Dolls seem to realize that their mainstreaming may depend on a lot less noise and a little more melody.

Opener Ash looked incapable of the angst-infused volume they created. Though Tim Wheeler’s leather pants looked the part, the fresh-faced Brit looked like Trent Reznor’s sweet younger cousin. And with Dennis the Menace impressario Rick politely handing out a beating to his drums, the trio’s spiraling guitar noise seemed wholly incongruous to their charming aesthetic.

Still, Ash ripped through Trailer’s “Season”, “Jack Names the Planets” and “Intense Thing” with the delirious zeal of junior high talent show cast-offs, bassist Mark pausing just long enough to hurl stage right before closing with the Ramones’ “Teenage Labotomy.” Maybe they’re not such sweet younger cousins after all.

This interview first appeared on Rolling Stone Online

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