Review: Goo Goo Dolls – O2 Academy, Glasgow, 2023

After a sudden, prolonged downpour that can only be described as biblical, and on a night that saw the Georgian national football team spitting their dummies out after being told to go back out and finish a game of football that had been suspended due to the rain (bet you would have been out the door like rats up a drain pipe had you been winning, eh boys?) it was left to a bunch of guys from Buffalo, New York to provide a bit of welcome respite from the usual Scotland-in-June weather-related shenanigans. Yes, Goo Goo Dolls – one of the most consistent (and gloriously uncool) bands of the last five decades – are back in town and preaching to a packed congregation that seems to have been with them every step of their almost-forty-year career.

The opening act for this run of Academy-sized venues is the pride of Wales: Those Damn Crows. And if ever there was a band born to play these larger venues then it would be these guys. After their third album ‘Inhale/Exhale’ gatecrashed the National Album Charts earlier this year, the five-piece made that leap from champions of the New Wave of Classic Rock movement to one of modern rock’s shooting stars. And with the noise that greets them as they take to the stage for the opening number ‘Who Did It’ it would seem that there is a fair old number of the Crow Family gathered at the barriers waiting on them. Once livewire vocalist Shane Greenhall takes up his usual position at the front of the stage, on his trusty box emblazoned with the name of the band, he utters his welcome to anyone not familiar with the band…“We’re THOSE DAMN…” and pauses to allow the crowd to fill in the blanks with a throaty roar of “CROWS”. Bridgend, Wales in the house and grabbing with both hands the opportunity afforded to them by the headliners.

Normally, opening acts get a few splatters of polite applause, and a few whoo’s from the crowd. Tonight though, it’s almost like Those Damn Crows are playing to a home crowd. With one eye on the clock, Those Damn Crows put in a professional shift aimed at converting anyone unfamiliar with them, and although Greenhall is eyeing the balcony and the boxes which are within touching distance, he refrains from going for his trademark climb. No time to stretch things out with an extended version of ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Ain’t Dead!’, instead ‘Blink Of An Eye’ (TDC’s own ‘Iris’?) is a fantastic entry point to the Crows’ back catalogue for everyone in tonight that digs Goo Goo Dolls’ softer moments, ‘This Time I’m Ready’ is absolutely perfect for an American audience at one of the many modern rock festivals on the bulging US circuit (the turn of pace midway through is still thrilling once it lands) and the Gaslight Anthem-tinged closer ‘See You Again’ is yet another example of why this band needs to get over to North America, pronto. Once these dates with Goo Goo Dolls end, Those Damn Crows slum it by opening in Europe for some little-known band called The Hollywood Vampires, and with Alice Cooper touring his home country at least twice a year then perhaps The Crows could wangle an opening slot?

After a few rough years where live music was forced to take a back seat, it’s a pleasure watching performers who are ecstatic to be back onstage again. And Goo Goo Dolls founding members guitarist/vocalist John Rzeznik,  and bassist/vocalist Robby Takac are having a blast. During the set-opener ‘Yeah, I Like You’, Takac, in particular, is like an out-of-control spinning top that has been wound up for days on end and is finally unleashed. A Tasmanian Devil-ish performer that plays his bass like it is supposed to be played: slung low in true Punk Rock fashion. The same track opens 2022’s ‘Chaos in Bloom’ album in fine style and with a brief-but-sensational guitar solo from Brad Fernquist, and Rzeznik strumming away on his acoustic guitar like his life depended on it, it’s an uplifting, energetic way to open the set.

What follows over the next 90 minutes or so is a masterclass on how to put together a setlist that not only has something for everyone but keeps the band fresh by including newer material; of which ‘Going Crazy’ in particular is great fun with Rzeznik laying down some impressive guitar licks when called upon. 2019’s ‘Miracle Pill’ is another fun moment. With an impressive body of work stretching back over decades, Goo Goo Dolls could play for three hours and still have complaints about particular tracks not being played, and the fact that the likes of ‘Slide’, ‘Dizzy’, and ‘Big Machine’ are all aired early on proves how extensive the Goo Goo Dolls songbook actually is….and how much of a buzz is it still hearing ‘Slide’ even today! Likewise, ‘So Alive’ is such a strong affirmation of life that it’s hard not to get swept up in the moment.

Rzeznik is in fine form, and when he’s not apologising for giving everyone Covid (Goo Goo Dolls were one of the last US bands to tour the UK before the lockdown hit) he’s messing up ‘Sympathy’ not once but twice and joking “…you are not getting your money back!…”. Once the home straight is in clear sight, it becomes hit-after-hit with ‘Stay With You’, ‘Better Days’, ‘Broadway’, and ‘Naked’ all featuring the crowd in full voice. All of that pales into insignificance once the intro to ‘Iris’ begins and the venue lights up in a sea of cellphones set to Facebook Live. Rzeznik has no need for a mic once the gazillion-selling hit kicks in and it is truly a sight to behold with Rzeznik and Takac standing back and soaking it all in some twenty-five years on from its first release. A true classic that resonates with so many, and is the only way to end an incredible night of music and memories.

Goo Goo Dolls end their UK tour on June 25th in London at the Eventim Apollo.

All images – Callum Scott



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