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Crowd goes gaga for Goo Goo Dolls

NIAGARA FALLS -- Friday night's sold-out Seneca Niagara Casino show for the Goo Goo Dolls was a feast for their fans.

Throughout the relatively short set (an hour and a half), it was apparent that most of the crowd didn't feel like sitting. Hands were lifted in the air, and bodies were swaying to the tunes as voices raised in karaoke paeans, singing along with the band.

The set list included audience favorites like "Sympathy" and "Iris," with a request for "Broadway" tossed in just for the heck of it.

Anthemic power ballads filled with power chords and catchy hooks -- the great majority of which featured John Rzeznik singing lead and contributing rhythm guitar fills -- took up the bulk of the set list while bassist Robbie Takac stepped to the front for vocals on some faster-paced (almost manically so) tunes.

Mike Malinin, the band's drummer, provided a steady pulse while backup musicians, multi-instrumentalist Korel Tunador and lead guitarist Brad Fernquist were solid, supplying the aural tapestry for Rzeznik and Takac to play against.

During the concert, there was nary a moment of stillness on the stage as the band's two founders, Rzeznik and Takac, took turns flashing from one end of the stage to the other. Rzeznik bantered with the audience, while Takac threatened to beat the living daylights out of his bass guitar.

What was apparent Friday night was how far the band has progressed in its nearly 20 years of recorded history.

Compared to the blend of hard-core punk rock (via Rzeznik) and heavy metal crunch favored by Takac, which informed the band's earliest recorded music, their current commercial success dwells more on a hard-charging melody line instead of the throat-shredding roar favored by the punks and head-bangers of their youth.

The updated sound of the Goo Goo Dolls really owes a lot to Rzeznik's fascination with Paul Westerberg and the Replacements. According to a quote from Rzeznik on the band's Web site, "I didn't feel like screaming constantly. I wanted to do what Westerberg was doing. I wanted to be Westerberg."

Nowadays, the band doesn't have to deal with comparisons to anyone else. They rock on their own merits.

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