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The decadence that draped the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion where the Goo Goo Dolls (one of rock’s most steadfast, consistent 90s alt-rockers) played this past Tuesday was as cathartic and heart-swelling as it was meant to be; the fact that they wistfully delivered their catalogue at an outdoor music venue on a perfect summer night made it that much more satisfying. The centerpiece: frontman Johnny Rzeznik’s velvety voice that has not only stood the test of time (a total of three decades), but has managed to display incredible range and refrain.
Although those in attendance (read: me) may have expected–and to a certain extent, wanted–exact replicas of all of the album cuts we’ve grown to inexplicably cherish over the years, that’s not how the night would play out. There were palpable harbingers that the crowd would still consume the nostalgia we desperately craved: black balloons floating above our heads, cornfed guitar licks, Johnny’s signature and impenetrable hair. But the band wasn’t afraid to toy slightly with melodies in hopes of placing a brief crack in their sugar crusted sameness; “Slide” possessed a heavy acoustic slant while “Big Machine” consisted of singing that was more restrained.
“I’m glad I get to play this song for you…20 years later and you keep coming back” was Rzeznik’s coy introduction for “Name.” In fact, the audience sung the song so perfectly and passionately that it overpowered the singer himself. Playful coyness summed up Rzeznik as one liners like “I think you may know this one” or “thanks for remembering that” were casually tossed around the whole evening. Newer songs from the Goo Goo Dolls’ eleventh album, Boxes, carried on their freewheeling, joyful approach to making music while displaying inevitable amounts of growth. “The Pin” felt refreshing but customary; closing song “Long Way Home” managed to ache in all the right places. However, older tunes still outmaneuvered their successors. The high tenor of “Naked” was easy and sublime while the hollowness of “Broadway” echoed brilliantly in between chords. But it was “Iris” that was the peak of their set. The remnants of its beauty correspond directly to its simplicity and timelessness–much like the Goo Goo Dolls themselves.