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Goos peerless in playing to their hometown fans

It's always an enthused, raucous affair when the Goo Goo Dolls come back for a hometown show.

Saturday evening was particularly so. A full house treated this show as the pinnacle of the summer concert season, and they were rewarded with the most visceral, animated and raucous gig the band has played in its hometown in several years.

The entire music community of our city and surrounding environs shows up to celebrate Buffalo's modern rock ambassadors, most of them looking for a bit of the time that Robby Takac and Johnny Rzeznik really don't have.

The Goos, however, have made a long-term habit of making time for their people. More importantly, on Saturday, the boys came out of the stalls kicking, offering a thundering slab of power-pop in "Long Way Down," which benefited from the seriously caffeinated rhythm section of bassist Takac and drummer Mike Malinin.

As often as the band has played this song -- and these guys have been touring behind latest album, "Let Love In," for quite a while, folks -- the elements conspired to make this show-opening version particularly slamming. This show, happily, didn't feel like just another stop on the tour for the Goos. Feelings were running high throughout, both on the stage and out in front of it, as evidenced by Rzeznik's early frustration with a faulty wireless transmitter on his acoustic guitar.

The singer threw the offending ax across the stage, doubtless wrecking it, before grabbing another and launching into a fevered take on "Slide." The crowd took all of this as a cue to go even more nuts, surely interpreting Rzeznik's emotional demeanor as a promise of an unscripted evening. That's exactly what they got. Rather than merely flogging the strong, grandiloquent "Let Love In" material -- which certainly got its fair showing on Saturday -- the band dug deeper for older material and rarely played gems from throughout its career -- doubtless acknowledging the sizable contingent among its audience still reeling from long-ago nights at the Continental.

These folks were Goo Goo Dolls fans long before "Iris" changed everything for the band, and Rzeznik & Takac gave them beaucoup props on Saturday. It would be foolish to deny that a healthy portion of the Goos crowd -- read this as "most of it" -- fell in love with the band based on its ability to blend a scruffy, ragamuffin's take on pop-punk with the eloquent ballads Rzeznik has become pretty much peerless at penning.

What makes the Goos still worth loving -- and clearly, a new generation of fans has fallen for the band, based on the 18 to 50 age group represented at Darien Lake is their passion for remaining at once true to their own ethic and maintaining a high commercial profile.

"Name," always a significant moment in a Goos show, was particularly poignant, as Rzeznik prefaced it with a rap recalling a time "when I felt like I was wasting my life," and then launching into the most intimate and emotional version of the tune I've ever heard.

All of this felt personal, somehow. And that's what we want from the Goos.

Lifehouse opened the show with a sturdy set of melodic modern rock, including several tunes from the new "Who We Are" album. The band's set was tight and rapidly sequenced. Opening with "Spin," and wasting no time breaking into the hit "Hanging By a Moment," the tune that brought the biggest response from a crowd that, considering the barely concealed enthusiasm for the "hometown team," stayed with the band throughout its strong set.

e-mail: jmiers@buffnews.com

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Goo Goo Dolls

With Lifehouse on Saturday night in Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.

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