Review | Crowd Goes Gaga for Goo Goo Dolls at the Santa Barbara Bowl

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Deep into Saturday’s Santa Barbara Bowl appearance by the Goo Goo Dolls, lead singer John Rzeznik gamely introduced the song which essentially makes their current touring/recording life possible. Said pivotal song was the band’s 1995 “Name,” the breakout hit which turned them from a more grassroots and softcore punk phenomenon into radio friendly pop chart-toppers.

As can happen, the devils/angel’s bargain of success came at a price, in terms of critical regard and old fans’ affections, Rzeznik explained. “The hit made our old friends hate us and our new friends were a bunch of phonies. We’ve been walking that precarious path ever since.”

Credit: Carl Perry

They’ve been walking the path in and out of the bank with a series of easy-does-it, hook-assisted hits — such as “Iris,” “Better Days,” “Slide” and “Black Balloon” — which spilled into the Bowl show along with a few obscurities and songs from their new album Chaos in Bloom.

Bassist Robby Takac sang a few songs, with a slightly brattier tone and vocal attitude, but still ever-friendly — call it mall angst. A couple of times during the show, Takac upended the band’s general mild-mannered stage composure by suddenly — and startlingly — racing across the stage, for no apparent reason. It was as if he saw a mountain lion lurking by the monitor mix board on stage and made haste stage right.

A Goo Goo Dolls show in 2022, nearly 40 years after the band’s founding, follows the pattern of hit-bearing veteran bands directing their appeal to those the band has their hooks in. Yes, the crowd here mostly went gaga over Goo Goo. But some of us find the pop-rock recipe a bit gooey by now.

We have a new contender in the ongoing unofficial contest for “best opening act” in this Bowl season. Saturday’s show opened with an impressive and longish (by opener standards) set by veteran Houston-based Blue October. Although the set started out in more of a generic modern rock direction, intrigue grew and deepened as the set proceeded. Lead singer Justin Furstenfeld boasts a powerful, versatile and volatile voice, and the closer he moved towards a Peter Gabriel-inspired sound and song style, the stronger the impact.

On this night, to these ears, the opener gave the headliner a run for its money in terms of keeping things fresh and earning the spotlight.


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