Goo Goo Dolls – Birmingham Academy – 11 November 2010.
Support: Unkle Bob
Words and Photos by Matthew Higgs
It’s not very often I go and watch a band that has been going longer than I have been alive, and often if I do, I come away feeling that while classics are classics, other songs often feel dated. While the Academy slowly filled up and tonight’s only support Scottish band, Unkle Bob made their way on stage I had mixed feelings about what tonight might be like.
Unkle Bob have a mellow indie sound, with lots of melodic harmonies the entire band join in on. They reminded me of a more relaxed Belle and Sebastian, merging some more retro sounds with that of bands like Radiohead. Maybe not the most obvious support band for the Goo Goo Dolls they still went down well with the crowd, with a warm applause at the end of songs and plenty of head nodding. Satellite and Ships On The Shoreline recive loud applause, but its not really the kind of music to start any big audience participation when playing to a new crowd. Dreamy and peaceful Rick Websters vocals are joined in some great harmonies, that while don’t rile up the crowd, do act as a nice opener to the night. Only as the band wind up their set with an extended outro, do they really start to turn up the tempo and bring in a more rocky edge with bassist Chloe Treacher standing on one of the front monitors. Unkle Bob I imagine put on a great headlining show for those who know the band and are worth checking out, but did feel like a warm act tonight compared to the more catchy and heavier Goo Goo Dolls set for anyone not already fans.
With one of the most mixed age audiences I have seen at a show reflecting the bands numerous successful albums, it is with great applause that the band take to the stage. Opening on the first song from the new album Sweetest Lie, the band show that while they have had a great career so far they still have a lot more to offer. Unlike other bands with extended careers the Goo Goo Dolls play with a humble sincerity letting their music do the talking instead of stage antics which I really respect. Sure they look like rock stars, but they don’t have to mince it to prove their worth. As guitarist and vocalist John Rzexnik switches to an acoustic guitar the band take the crowd back to 1998 with the opening riff to Slide, the applause is turned up a notch and the crowd start to really warm up their singing muscles. The 98 vibe is continued with Dizzy as the band run through their wide selection of songs. John and bassist/vocalist Robby Takac switch vocal duties through out the bands set with their own distinctive voices, John’s husky voice perfect for ballads and Robby’s almost pop punky more suited to the bands up tempo tracks. As John walks across the stage, sometimes taking the mic from its stand, Robby rocks out banging his bass with his fist, running and spinning across the stage with a huge smile on his face.
As Black Ballon is played again the crowd stretch their vocal muscles for one of the bands biggest songs. The band describe how Home is about an injured soldier afraid to return home injured to his partner, incase of what she might think, the song feeling even more potent with today being remembrance day. Name again keeps the crowd in fine voice but the whole room is waiting for one song that after catchy song, after catchy song is a diamond in an already full crown. As the opening bars to Iris is played the room goes mad there are definitely many present that justified coming tonight by the chance to hear this song live. Which, while impressive that one song can receive such a massive applause, is kind of sad in the sense that Goo Goo Dolls have really proved that far from being a one hit band, they have bags and bags of well written and well performed songs. From start to finish every word is sang back and the crowd are treated in return, to an additional chorus on which to make their voices heard again before the song finishes.
Finishing after the encore with new song Not Broken and classic Broadway, the band that show be it the new songs or the old classics their material is still relevant, still catchy and still performed in a humble and honest way. The band are maturing, but with style and in a way that still deserves your ears as much as ever.