Vancouver’s cotton-candy crowd goes gaga for Goo Goo

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 29, 1999

I didn’t realize the vast majority of Goo Goo Dolls fans were teenagers until I got to GM Place last Saturday (July 24) and discovered that the food concessions were pushing candy floss more aggressively than beer. I guess I should have known, considering how the Buffalo trio have gone from being power-punk regulars at Vancouver’s now-defunct Town Pump to MTV-approved poster boys for mainstream pop.

But when the band hit the stage and blasted into “Dizzy”, the pummelling leadoff track from its new Dizzy Up the Girl CD, I didn’t really care that I was a codger among the kids. Radio-friendly or not, these guys know how to rip it up live, and that ability can transcend an entire generation.

Maybe even two.

While their sound was brazen and in-your-face, the look of the Goo Goo Dolls was anything but. Guitarist-vocalist John Rzeznik seemed suited up for a night on the couch in a white tank top, black tear-away sweats, and worn runners. Bassist-vocalist Robby Takac didn’t even bother with worn runners; he was barefoot and bouncy from beginning to end. As well as powerhouse drummer Mike Malinin—who became a certified Doll when long-time skinbasher George Tutuska left after 1995’s breakthrough album, A Boy Named Goo—the band’s live lineup also included energetic keyboardist Dave Schulz and steady-rockin’ rhythm guitarist Nathan December.

“We suck as a three-piece,” explained Rzeznik at one point, “we suck a little less as a five-piece.” But there was very little sucking going on, and even less sucking-up to the enthusiastic crowd of 4,600. In lieu of time-wasting chitchat, the Goo Goos opted to blast from one undeniably infectious rave-up to the next. And their stage show was as simplistically effective as their music, as when a shiny silver backdrop was hauled up just in time to accentuate the exuberant opening chords of “Naked”.

“I love it when this happens,” announced Rzeznik, beaming at the sight of a small bra thrown on-stage. The teen idol tried the undergarment on for size before draping it over his mike stand and paying homage to underage sex with some authentic Chuck Berry licks. When the band played the first of its hit ballads, “Name”, you could tell the crowd was on the youthful side, because only about 50 people flicked their Bics, ’70s-style, to the swaying sounds.

A fair number of the teenagers in attendance were no doubt drawn by the inclusion of warm-up act Sugar Ray, who are all the rage on CFOX thanks to the lightweight ditty “Every Morning”. They took the stage to the swinging strains of Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind”, Craig “DJ Homicide” Bullock pedalling a small bike over to his turntable station and lead vocalist Mark McGrath leaping madly about, inciting the floor crowd to do the same.

I didn’t groove much on the SoCal quintet’s chaotic mix of heavy rap and sugary pop, but they scored Brownie points for having their own tiki bar and poking fun at Billy Squier’s “The Stroke”. When McGrath had two testosterone-fuelled fans hauled up from the front row so they could show off their rapping skills, the best they could manage between them was yelling “Mothafucka!” That favoured “lyric” of America’s multiplatinum gangsta rappers went over big with the impressionable cotton-candy crowd.

I guess there’s no escaping the U.S.–culture virus.

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