Goo Goo Dolls along with Rob Thomas give Buffalo, NY an unforgettable, once in a life time Christmas gift.
By Thomas S. Orwat, Jr.
Buffalo, NY – The multi-platinum selling music legends of Buffalo, NY, the Goo Goo Dolls, returned to their beloved hometown, along with co-headliner Rob Thomas for local radio station Star 102.5’s ‘Deck the Hall Ball’ holiday concert. This event was sold out in minutes when tickets went on sale months ago, and was viewed by many music lovers in the Western New York area as the undisputed concert of the year. While this line-up could have been booked in a much bigger venue, perhaps even Key Bank Center (home of the Buffalo Sabres), the much smaller Riverworks provided an intimate and exciting atmosphere for those lucky enough to get a ticket.
The only damper on the evening was that some fans found themselves in a quagmire when the NFL changed the time of a very important Buffalo Bills game from 1:00pm to 8:15pm, the same time as the concert. It was a bit distracting during the concert, as many were following the game and getting updates on the score. Star 102.5 made a decision to not broadcast the game during the concert, citing the fact the people may have been DVR’ing the game to watch it later. Fortunately, the Bills pulled it off winning 17-10 over the Pittsburgh Steelers and clinched the playoff birth, for only the second time since 1999.
After a short opening set by Sydney pop star Dean Lewis, lead singer of Matchbox Twenty (and successful solo artist) Rob Thomas hit the stage and played an intense, stripped down, 60 minute long set. During the last few weeks, Thomas has been playing a series of radio station sponsored Holiday shows, just like the Goo Goo Dolls. For these particular shows, Thomas is onstage performing with only band members Matt Beck and the very musically versatile Koral Turnador (who ironically was a member of the Goo Goo Dolls touring band from 2006-2016) and not his full piece 8 member touring band, which backed him for his 2019 ‘Chip Tooth Smile’ World tour. However, probably because Thomas was performing co-headlining shows with the Goo Goo Dolls this weekend, he added his touring bassist and drummer to enhance his sound a bit.
Thomas high energy set consisted mostly of material from his solo albums with a few Matchbox Twenty songs added to the mix. His newest release, ‘Chip Tooth Smile’ is impressive, perhaps the best solo material of his career and truly one of the best pop rock records of 2019.
Thomas was animated and very engaging with the audience during the evening. In between songs, he mentioned that Matchbox Twenty would be back touring this summer, (maybe a co-headline tour with the Goo Goo Dolls perhaps???).
Thomas received a loud cheer when he grabbed his acoustic guitar and announced that the Matchbox Twenty song “3:AM” was next up. A slowed down version had the audience singing along.
Halfway through the set, Thomas explained, I really don’t play this next song too often, but I think this would be a great time to play it, he then proceeded with “New York City Christmas.”
For the final song of the evening, Thomas stated, “This is a cover song, but I feel it’s okay for me to perform it, since I wrote it.” The band then kicked into the mega-hit from Santana, “Smooth,” and brought Thomas’ performance and his 2019 touring schedule to an epic close.
After a short break, as fans checked their phones for updates on the Bills game, the kings of Buffalo, NY the Goo Goo Dolls, featuring John Rzeznik and Robby Takac backed by touring musicians Brad Fernquist (guitar), Craig Macintyre (drums) and Jim McGorman (keyboards) hit the stage shortly after 10:00pm. Their intense hour long set consisted of many of their chart topping hits mixed in with tracks from their brilliant contender for album of the year, the 2019 release, ‘Miracle Pill.’
Kicking off with “Indestructible” Rzeznik , Takac and band were primed and ready to give their hometown a very special show, and prove why they are still highly regarded as one of the best live bands in music. The love affair between the city of Buffalo and the Goo Goo Dolls started during the late 80’s and continues to grow exponentially every year. The have a great range of fans from young to old, which was made obvious looking at the audience on this night.
Throughout the evening, Rzeznik was in a great mood and spot on vocally. Takac, even with all the running around he does, didn’t miss a note. This is a real band, with musicians that still can play and sing, no lip syncing or playing along to tracks here.
“This is the last show of the year for us, and this is a fuckin’ awesome place to do it!” Rzeznik declared, referring to the Riverworks venue located right on the Buffalo river. This is the same venue that Takac held his very popular annual ‘Music is Art’ festival last September.
Rzeznik joked about Takac’s popularity in the city stating, “I know that everyone in this room went to high school with Robby. It’s the only high school in Western New York to have 40,000 people in the graduating class.” The audience laughed. “Everyday someone comes up to me and says, ‘I went to high school with Robby!!!'”
Takac, a philanthropist and a great asset to the Buffalo community, received a loud ovation when he stepped up to center stage and sang lead vocals for his song, “Bringing on the Light,” from the band’s 2013 ‘Magnetic.’ Usually Takac does four of his songs per show, but since this was a shorter set, he only did the one.
Even though the show was in a smaller than usual venue for The Goo Goo Dolls, many of the bands signature visuals were still being utilized. For the hit single “Black Balloons,” their was a massive black balloon drop from the ceiling. It’s always funny watching the audience react when this occurs.
An intense version of “So Alive” had a storm of confetti covering the front of the audience. When the song ended many in the audience started chanting “Let’s Go Buffalo.” Then Rzeznik left the stage for a second and grabbed a leaf blower and started cleaning off the confetti on the stage, jokingly explaining “I like a clean stage.”
Rzeznik then took center stage with his acoustic as Takac and the other members left for a break. Rzeznik then told the audience, “Sorry to bum you out, but the next song is about a hobby I used to have.” He further explained, “I used to like feeling sorry for myself. Self pity can be fuckin’ amazing. There was something so dark and satisfying about it.” Rzeznik then proceeded with a passionate solo version of “Sympathy.”
The band’s breakthrough hit of 1995 “Name” followed. Rzeznik said, “This was the first song that many people in the world, outside of this city, heard from us. Rzeznik performed the first few verses solo, but was then joined by Takac and band. A mass audience sing along helped bring this song to a goosebump worthy moment.
For the next song, and most recent single, the powerful and catchy, “Fearless” Rzeznik emphatically declared, “I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but this world has gone fuckin’ insane!” It’s fuckin’ crazy and it getting harder to be a human being.” “But we are alright, being here all together.” This song would be well served as the Buffalo Bills upcoming playoff anthem.
Following was the massive hit, “Better Days,” in which Rzeznik said, ” I originally wrote this song to be on a Christmas record, but it never made on to that Christmas record. So, it’s nice to finally do it in the context that it was meant for.” Another mass audience sing along followed.
The band turned up the intensity even more with an all out rocking version of “Broadway,” that featured a tasty melodic guitar solo by Brad Fernquist and a short and sweet harmonica solo by Rzeznik.
The soon to be pushed as the next single from ‘Miracle Pill’- “Autumn Leaves” followed and had the audience in awe of Rzeznik’s powerful vocals and profound lyrics. For the live performance of this song, the band takes it to another level of intensity with an added guitar solo from Fernquist and then a rather bluesy one from Rzeznik. This song should to be a major hit for the band in 2020.
Then of course the band concluded with their biggest hit, “Iris.” Rzeznik, said “Well, we have to play this one!” This song has over 1 billion views on youtube! And like every Goo Goo Dolls show of the last 20 years, this was truly the highlight of the evening. It is the perfect song and always has the audience singing along.
With the last note of “Iris,” the Goo Goo Dolls final show of 2019 came to a glorious end. During this year, the band had been very active, with a successful North American co-headlining summer run with Train, and a series of dates with Bon Jovi in South America, as well as a sold-out fall headlining tour. But, wait until you see what they have planned for 2020!
Overall, this was a great evening and the local radio station Star 102.5 should be praised for bringing together such an amazing Holiday event with two of the top acts in music. The only downside is, they may never be able to ever top it again.
For more on the Goo Goo Dolls, please visit www.googoodolls.com
For more on Robby Takac’s “Music Is Art” please visit www.musicisart.org