HOLLYWOOD, CA-  With all things 90s back in fashion, it seems appropriate that the Goo Goo Dolls went on the road to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their biggest album: Dizzy Up The Girl. Their concert at the Hollywood Palladium appealed to die-hard fans from beginning to end: they played the entire album, followed by a mix of hits and more obscure tracks.

There’s something magical about seeing a big-name band in such an intimate setting. And in a break from my quest to find the worst seats in Los Angeles, it was a joy to be so close to the performers rather than having to watch them on screens. I’d also somehow never been to a show at the Palladium before, which I can only describe as looking like a Streamline Moderne roller skating rink featuring chandeliers brought to you by the Phantom of the Opera. There’s an odd glamour about the place, and I found myself wanting to come back before I’d even left.

In their current incarnation, the band consists of Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac, supported by touring musicians. I’d hoped that drummer Mike Malinin would rejoin them for this tour, but apparently it wasn’t in the cards. Also missing from the tour was merchandise from their recent pop-up shop in Buffalo. After seeing photos of all the fun items they’d been selling, I was disappointed that they only had “normal” merch. I suppose there’s always eBay, but I prefer to give my money to the artists.

Goo Goo Dolls @ The Hollywood Palladium 11/9/18. Photo by Level With Music (@LevelWithMusic) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Goo Goo Dolls @ The Hollywood Palladium 11/9/18. Photo by Level With Music (@LevelWithMusic) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Looking at Rzeznik and Takac, it seems like an unlikely friendship. Rzeznik continues to smolder from the stage. As he ages, his porcelain beauty makes him look increasingly like a model for Edward Cullen, the Twilight vampire. His voice — one of the sexiest in 90s rock — hasn’t lost its range.

By contrast, Takac sports impressive bedhead and sings like he’s come straight from a punk band. In fact, his singing was the biggest shock of the night. While I love the band, I’d never heard his tracks before and was unprepared for how different they were than the chart-topping sound. It’s hard to imagine what the two musicians have in common, but considering how long they’ve been together, it clearly works for them.

The concert featured simple staging in keeping with the scale of the venue: first with a suspended frame around the Dizzy cover art, then later with just the logo on a curtain behind the band for the second portion of the show. There was also a transition in the middle in which Rzeznik performed with a video version of himself — an idea that probably sounded better on paper than in real life. While the concept of having him play and harmonize with layers of himself was in interesting concept, it was marred by odd comedic bickering that played out between the two Rzezniks. A great singer? Yes. An effective comedian? Less so.

Goo Goo Dolls @ The Hollywood Palladium 11/9/18. Setlist.

The best portion of the show was the first half, in which they played the album through from start to finish. I found myself flashing back to the first time I heard about it — my best friend insistently urged me to listen to this amazing new song, “Iris.” While it’s never been my favorite of their tracks because I love “Slide” with a passion I can’t describe, it’s certainly the showstopper in the live performance.  Rzeznik and Takac play the climactic riffs together with an intense unity and synchronization that goes far beyond just being in time with each other. If you haven’t seen the official live video for “Iris,” check it out to see them tear through the song in the pouring rain for a hometown crowd in Buffalo. It’s a thing of beauty in that performance and was electrifying here as well.

The fans clearly loved the performance. They came equipped with all-too-literal black balloons to toss around during “Black Balloon” and cheered Rzeznik’s banter. The crowd particularly loved wisecracks including, “Are you happy? That sucks because I’m going to play a really depressing song,” followed by a comment about how therapy was much less effective than “giving about 98% less f**ks about everything.”  He also gave some pointedly joking commentary about a person being escorted out by security, saying it wasn’t that kind of performance and that “the only thing that’s going to get hurt at one of our shows is someone’s feelings.” They also tipped their hat to the importance of Los Angeles to their success, giving credit to local radio station KROQ for helping them break out as artists by being the first to play their 1995 hit, “Name.”

In general, however, I think I was the wrong audience for this particular show. While I really like the Goo Goo Dolls, I don’t live and breathe their music. I wished I could hear their version of “Give a Little Bit,” which it appears they don’t play much anymore — even in the second portion of the show. Ultimately, this performance was more about fan service, and I’m more of a “greatest hits” audience member.  Fortunately, that’s most likely what they’ll be serving up next summer on their tour with Train — and I’ll be there, minus the black balloons.

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