Alt-rock stars Goo Goo Dolls are in town to treat us to a set jam-packed with hits spanning their whole career. And Manchester Academy is absolutely bursting to its seams in anticipation.
Opening up tonight’s show are the support band, Those Damn Crows. Arguably the leaders of the NWOCR (New Wave of Classic Rock) scene, they have a criminally short 30-minute, 6-song set, so they waste little time interacting with the crowd.
Playing a mix of songs from their three studio albums – the latest of which (Inhale/Exhale) reached Number 3 in the UK charts earlier this year – the highlight of the set is the beautifully reworked, piano-led version of Blink Of An Eye, which lead singer Shane Greenhall describes as the band’s Iris.
Closing with See You Again, I am left with no doubt that the Bridgend rockers have won over a legion of new fans, who will be eager to catch the band the next time they’re in Manchester. Actually, I wouldn’t rule out them headlining this venue in the near future.
From the moment Goo Goo Dolls take to the stage, they have the crowd in the palm of their hands. Opening with Yeah I Like You from their most recent album, Chaos In Bloom, it’s not long before more familiar hits such as Slide and Dizzy have the crowd singing at the top of their lungs.
Crowd engagement between songs is minimal, but lead singer John Rzeznik is in a jovial mood as he takes a phone from a fan who is Facetiming a friend. “A cheap motherfucker who wouldn’t buy a ticket!” he jokes, before finding out they weren’t at the show due to having Covid, so he thanks them for not attending!
Here Is Gone is briefly interrupted and then restarted after bassist Robby Takac spots a member of the audience in need of some medical attention. The temperature in the room is extremely high and it’s no shock that people are struggling – we’re not used to this heat here in Manchester!
After almost 40 years together, it’s hardly surprising they put in such a polished performance, and it’s an absolute joy to watch. Rzeznik and Takac look to be enjoying it just as much as we are, with Takac grinning throughout.
You really do get a bit of everything at a Goo Goo Dolls show. We go from the anthemic, rousing choruses of songs like So Alive and Come To Me, to the stripped-back nature of Sympathy, You Are The Answer and Name, which suddenly give the night a more intimate feel. Their punk roots are also on display when Takac takes over lead vocals on January Friend and Bringing On The Light.
The moment everyone has been waiting for is saved for the very end. Iris is one of the most iconic songs of its generation, and the crowd is all of a sudden a sea of mobile phones capturing this special moment. Towards the end of the song Rzeznik brings on stage a young boy named Daniel, who appeared on a UK TV show called The Piano. He describes how the youngster “has taught me how I can sing this song better” and he goes on to do a sensational job with the final chorus. Indeed, this touching moment brings the night to an emotional close.
A stunning performance from true legends of the genre.
Review of Goo Goo Dolls at Manchester Academy on 23rd June 2023 by Will Maxwell. Photography by Joe Jones.