Thursday night at the Camden Roundhouse marks the culmination of New York Rockers Goo Goo Dolls’ UK tour dates endorsing their 2019 LP – Miracle Pill.
As 9pm approaches, the lights dim and the crowd still themselves for the band to take their places on stage, background music teasing as the Goo Goo Dolls make their way to the stage, the crowd erupting as the lights come up and Johnny Rzeznik, without skipping a beat, launches straight into Indestructible, the opening track to Miracle Pill. While it’s clear that not all of the crowd are familiar with this particular song, it doesn’t stop them from joining in and adding backing vocals where they can.
Home follows and puts the crowd more at ease, but it’s track number three that sends them into a frenzy, with a swift transition from electric to acoustic Rzeznik invites the crowd to sing along with him to Slide, one of the many hits from their seminal 1998 record Dizzy Up The Girl.
The crowd are in their element now reveling in the atmosphere and the music they’ve grown old to. When you see the energy behind the songs and the way Johnny bounces around that stage it’s hard to think that this band formed way back in 1986, but when you look around the crowd, you start to notice that it’s certainly an ageing audience here tonight.
But if you take the time to look up to the balcony seating area you’ll spot a few young rockers up there, presumably brought along by rebellious parents (considering it’s a school night!) passing on the joy and energy of live music to the next generation – a great thing to see.
Tonight the hits just keep on coming and amidst them the Buffalo, New York-born frontman introduces Black Balloon, as if it required one.
The Camden crowd sing along with all their hearts and they howl in glee as from the ceiling, what fells like hundreds of, black balloons cascade down and then Johnny jokingly exclaims, “Well that’s it folks, goodnight everybody!” before continuing on with the rip-roaring set list consisting of 23 tracks incorporating cuts from across the catalogue.
Everything from 1993’s Superstar Car Wash, 1995 record A Boy Named Goo and hit 1998 record Dizzy Up The Girl through to 2006’s Let Love In, Something For The Rest Of Us, Magnetic, Boxes and of course last year’s Miracle Pill are touched upon, demonstrating the band aren’t resting on their bygone hits to play shows but continue to innovate and stay relevant.
Rzeznik isn’t the only one on the mic tonight, his vocals take a rest while bassist Robby Takac’s raw and husky vocals take the lead for Another Second Time Around, January Friend and new track Life’s A Message, the crowd savour this and relish the change in tone.
Later, during So Alive, the 54-year-old frontman regrets starting the crowd off on a clapping chorus but then gets himself back on track and follows it with an impeccable solo rendition of 1995 single Name, a clear crowd favourite. But its two songs from the end when the crowd erupt as the undeniably recognisable opening chords of Iris spew forth and the crowd unanimously cheer, now roused, the whole venue is singing along anthemically.
Start to finish there is not one person in this crowd who isn’t singing at the top of their lungs. It doesn’t stop there though, Iris. The night climaxes with upbeat Dizzy Up The Girl single Broadway. And while we lose some of the crowd who make an early exit to beat the crowds, there is still reason to stay and many do and take it all in. Rzeznik thanks the crowd and the lights go back up, a wholly satisfied throng exit the building out into the blistering cold London night, buzzing.
Reading four piece, Valeras are tonight’s opening act and they don’t disappoint with an eruption of punk-infused rock. The quartet started out as a quintet of strangers, known as Area 52, who met in 2013 at the Reading Rock Academy, a charity rock school type music project. Knives & Flowers, released in 2017, was their first release under their new name – Valeras.
Tonight they open their six song set with In Time, It’ll Be Easier For Us which receives a good reception. And by the third song in their set, the crowd is well and truly loosened up and front woman Rose Yagmur closes out the group’s set with Hear Me Out which she informs us “is about being Gay and proud, and that’s exactly what I am”.
In my experience you don’t regularly experience a supporting act that stands out and warrants further investigation, but I think on this particular occasion Valeras are the exception to the rule and are definitely one to watch. Valeras are currently touring and have upcoming gigs in London and Reading, with tickets costing less than £15 they’re definitely worth a gamble.
Review of Goo Goo Dolls at London’s Roundhouse on 27th February 2020 by Bernadette O’Malley. Photography by Kalpesh Patel.