Concert Reviews

Concert Review: Goo Goo Dolls + O.A.R. | Blossom Music Center | 08.20.23

The Big Night Out Tour was a little less “big” of a crowd at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, OH on a beautiful Sunday’s eve as summer and outdoor concert season wind down. No lawn tickets were sold for tonight’s Goo Goo Dolls & O.A.R. concert (seemingly, an odd move from a business standpoint, but what the hell do I know?)

The Big Night lived up to its name. Two veteran acts that both hold a special place in this writer’s heart, put on fan and passionate performances. Both acts have a lot of miles on the tires, but their tread is as strong as can be.

The smooth saxophone sounds of Jerry Depizzo rang through the pavilion as this reviewer mozied to his seat as O.A.R. opened with “Lay Down.” The song debuted at the now-defunct Feeling Better Than Everfine festival that the band hosted for several years in Cleveland at the also defunct Tower City Amphitheater

I still remember rocking out to the band’s song “Night Shift” almost every late night (err…early morning, at approximately 3:00 AM, of course) and sending my friends the track “That Was A Crazy Game of Poker” that I had freshly downloaded from Limewire. I recall seeing the band play a free show in a record store parking lot one Memorial Day weekend. I used to belt out “Hey Girl” at the top of my lungs in my college love’s car while driving around campus. O.A.R.’s team was one of the first to grant me press access, which I am still grateful for to this day.

Frontman Marc Roberge talked about how the band formed in Rockville, Maryland, and how terrified they were to play their original music in front of their eighth-grade peers. After meeting DePizzo while attending college at THE Ohio State University, the band’s sound was revolutionized (no pun intended).

Nowadays, the band is joined on tour by trumpeter John Lampley, a Tallmadge, Ohio native who honed his chops playing at a church in neighboring Akron. Decked out in a Mark Price jersey, Lampley looked almost too happy to be performing with O.A.R., singing along when he didn’t have a face full of trumpet and displaying hand motions that went along with the band’s lyrics.

{Video Courtesy of YouTube user Live Music Is My Drug Of Choice}

O.A.R mixed in a few older tunes for the longtime fans, “Love and Memories” and “Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” for those who discovered them on the radio, as well as some newer tunes. (Notably, no songs from their most recent album, ‘The Arcade,’ made the setlist tonight.)

A cover of “Ring of Fire” and a fun version of “Hey Girl” featuring Nicholas Radina on cuatro got the crowd revved up.

The guys closed out their set with “That Was A Crazy of Poker.” I couldn’t help but rock out like I was 19 years old again. That song reminds me of better and simpler times and is still a blast to sing and dance to. Minus the idiots who brought decks of cards to toss into the air, it was a great moment and a great close to their set.

Goo Goo Dolls charged on stage and, without hesitation, started with the first of many hit singles on the night, “Broadway.” Bassist Robby Takac ran to the front of the stage at the end of the verse to conduct the audience in singing the lyrics, “see the young man sitting in the old man’s bar / waiting for his turn to die.”

Frontman John Rzeznik was unhappy with the sound in his monitors, and he let the side-stage sound guy have it for the first of several times during the evening.

“Over and Over” from their 2016 album, ‘Boxes’ immediately followed. When a band has as many smash hits as Goo Goo Dolls, it is tough to pack them all into a 25-song set and still leave room for deep cuts, fan favorites, and maybe even a cover! To make some space later in their set for such tunes, Takac and Rzeznik roared with four straight hits: “Slide,” “Big Machine’ “Here is Gone,” and this reviewer’s personal favorite GGD tune, “Black Balloon.”

{Video Courtesy of YouTube user Live Music Is My Drug Of Choice}

It was during “Black Balloon,” this writer made a keen conclusion. Goo Goo Dolls have oddly become part of the soundtrack to my life! I still remember the first time I heard “Black Balloon.” (It was on a camping trip with my father in the Adirondack Mountains before the turn of the millennium on the only radio station we could get with the minivan’s FM antenna in our remote area!) I also remember the first time I saw the #1 single “Iris” running through the woods in high school, listening to “Slide” as I trained for cross country meets, and watching an orca show at the amusement park I worked for in high school as the trainer and whale splashed around to “Better Days.” I recall sitting in my bedroom while being grounded for lying to my parents and first hearing the lyrics, “It always rains like hell on the loser’s day parade.” Aside from music, I remember Takac being the first major recording artist to grant me an interview when I was first cutting my teeth in music journalism. (Thanks again, Robby!) I recall getting bounced from a concert at The Agora because my date was so intoxicated that fellow concertgoers were complaining about her being obnoxious. And, tonight, I met John and Robby and was able to thank them for the music that has had such an impact.

Read CleveRock’s pre-show interview with Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac

Back to the show….

The Goos proved that they are more than their Top Ten singles tonight. Songs from the latest album, ‘Chaos in Bloom,’ “Yeah, I Like You” and “Going Crazy” went over well with the crowd, even though fewer people were familiar with the tunes.

Takac (who, as usual, was barefoot during the show), had his time to shine on lead vocals for “January Friend” and “Bringing on the Light.” While leading the sing-along for the latter, he joked that he could not have made the lyrics any easier to remember.

It is simply remarkable that the guys can maintain their passion, despite having performed some of these tunes over, and over, and over, and then over some more, for multiple decades. They maintain the same zeal from when the tunes were fresh out of the studio.

Rzeznik joked that the band wouldn’t be leaving the stage before the “encore,” which drew a louder ovation than most encore breaks I’ve seen!

Roberge joined Goo Goo Dolls for a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” before closing their set with the #1 hit, “Iris.”

“It feels like a Saturday night,” Rzeznik exclaimed. (Unfortunately, tomorrow is not Sunday morning!) “Don’t go to work tomorrow,” he ordered.

The Big Night Out was in fact just that. A big stroll through memory lane with two acts that have remained relevant for far longer than most ever dream of in this crazy industry that is the music business.

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