This seemed like an appropriate DVD to talk about today, since it was filmed on the 4th of July (ok so I’m a couple of days off, but close enough right?). This is an extremely well put together DVD. The footage is awesome, everyone gets coverage (even the two tour musicians that aren’t part of the band) and there are great crowd shots too. John might get a bit more than everyone else, but that’s to be expected since he’s the frontman.
Before I go any further, I guess it makes sense to give some background on the band.
The Goo Goo Dolls are:
John Rzeznik – Vocals and Guitar
Robby Takac – Bass and Vocals
Mike Malinin – Drums
Greg Suran – Guitars and Mandolin
Jason Freese – Keyboards, Percussion, Saxophone and Accordion
John and Robby started the band in 1986, Mike joined in 1995. John grew up in a working class family in Buffalo, New York. His parents died within a year of each other when he was only sixteen. He was pretty much on his own after that, he moved into what he calls “the college ghettos”, started playing in bands and living the lifestyle. Even with his extracurricular activities, John managed to make it through high school and enroll in college (believe it or not, he planned on being a social worker).
In college, he met Robby. Both were involved in music, but were having limited success. John was in hardcore punk bands and Robby was “a hippie metal guy” (according to John). They found they complimented each other well and ended up forming a band together. In the beginning Robby was the main vocalist, but over the years it has transitioned into John singing most of the songs.
Ok, so now back to the DVD. It is so appropriate that they filmed it in Buffalo. They are with their hometown crowd and they seem so comfortable on stage (I guess it’s like having the home field advantage in sports). The backdrop for the stage is City Hall, it’s beautiful the way it is all lit up (this is a night show). They perform a terrific selection of songs from five of their CDs (although most are from the two most recent ones at that time).
Here is the set list:
Big Machine (Gutterflower) – John
Naked (A Boy Named Goo) – John
Slide (Gutterflower) – John
Think About Me (Gutterflower) – John
Smash (Gutterflower) – Robby
Tucked Away (Gutterflower) – Robby
Black Balloon (Dizzy Up the Girl) – John
Dizzy (Dizzy Up the Girl) – John
Name (A Boy Named Goo) – John
Cuz You’re Gone (Superstar Carwash) – John
Sympathy (Gutterflower) – John
January Friend (Dizzy Up the Girl) – Robby
Here is Gone (Gutterflower) – John
What a Scene (Gutterflower) – John
Acoustic #3 (Dizzy Up the Girl) – John
Two Days in February (Hold Me Up) – John
Broadway (Dizzy Up the Girl) – John
Iris (Dizzy Up the Girl) – John
Give a Little Bit (Cover of a Supertramp Song) – John
John is great live. His voice is just as strong as it is on the CDs. He also plays well to the crowd. He gets them involved in singing some of the songs and also gets a hold of some of the signs people brought and reads/comments on them. There’s a particularly funny bit with a sign that says “Polish Guys Kick Ass” (John is Polish). Pause for a brief fangirl moment – John is also one incredibly sexy guy (when he takes his shirt off – wow!).
While I love Robby’s deep/raspy voice on the CDs, it’s not as good live. His voice isn’t as strong as John’s and he struggles a bit. However, he is a great bass player and knows how to work a stage. They make a great team; the two of them together are what make The Goo Goo Dolls terrific. Interesting side fact, Robby never wears shoes when they perform, he says he likes to feel the vibration of the stage through his feet. You will notice when they focus on his feet he is only wearing black socks. There are some great shots of him pogoing in the puddles on the stage.
Speaking of puddles, about 40 minutes into the concert it starts to rain. Which quickly turns into a downpour that continues throughout the rest of the show. They continue on and work through the technical difficulties that crop up (electrical equipment and water don’t mix well). Guitars, microphones and cameras give out at different times but they happily continue on. John seems especially unfazed by it; in fact he seems to be enjoying himself. Both he and Robby end up absolutely soaked (since they are at the front of the stage and aren’t under a cover at all). The audience sticks with them throughout.
While this would have been a terrific performance DVD regardless, the downpour made it extra special. It’s what you would call a happy accident. Adding an interesting element to the performance and making it truly phenomenal. Of course, since it’s the 4th of July, the show ends with a big fireworks display.
There are a couple of great extras as well. A 30-minute feature showing bits of the week before the concert; preparation, rehearsals and some interesting things around Buffalo. John gets taken on a personal tour of the historic train station that is being renovated. He admits that they were responsible for a lot of the window breakage in the place from when they were kids. Robby shows off the “Good Charmel Records” recording studio, which he started in 2003. There is also a lot of silliness and goofing around.
The other extra is an audio commentary of the concert. The participants are John, Robby, Mike, Doug (the Engineer) and Peter (the Stage Manager). It’s fun to listen to, but don’t expect a lot of facts to be learned. It’s more like 5 buddies sitting around drinking and talking. With it quickly turning into a session of them harassing each other, telling stories and a whole lot of bleeping out things.
One of the things I was amused by was John talking about them playing at the Puyallup State Fair (in Washington). Apparently, Jewel was there and John was hoping to impress her. Unfortunately, Peter gave them the wrong set lists, so when they started playing, all three of them were playing different songs. As you can guess, Jewel was not exactly impressed and ended up walking off. So much for John’s love connection.
John also commented on the confetti gun they had. He said they had to pay extra to have it and the guys running it knew he’d be pissed if they didn’t shoot it off. So even though it was pouring down rain they shot it off and ended up covering the audience in bits of red, white and blue paper. As Robby put it “we ended up paper mache-ing the audience”.
Some interesting trivia:
Robby collects PEZ dispensers and has over 1,000 in his collection.
“Name” was the song that was their first big hit.
John was suffering from a bout of writer’s block when he was asked to write a song for the movie “The City of Angels”. Being able to focus on the characters in the movie as he wrote helped him get past the block he was having. The song he wrote is “Iris” and ended up being a huge hit for them.
John has been asked to write songs for other movies; Batman and Robin (Lazy Eye), Treasure Planet (I’m Still Here) and Transformers (Before It’s Too Late).