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Goo Goo Dolls offers fans the best that rock can give

A three-act rock opera – a night of big, blustery music teeming with lyrical poetry – happened at Darien Lake amphitheater on Saturday night. It was the best that rock offers: majestic guitar flourishes, unabashed joy on and off the stage, and mega-smashes that have nestled into airplay/personal soundtracks.

Goo Goo Dolls, headliners, of course, chose to create a rollicking disco vibe – replete with smoke and a rainbow of twirling spotlights – before Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac, and band, emerged from the shadows. Among their pre-set mix was Rose Royce’s “Car Wash,” a wry reference to their ’93 release “Superstar Carwash.”

The set was a dynamic and well-paced blend of old and newer material, “Over and Over” the opener. Happily the next tune, “Long Way Down,” has made the cut all these years. And what also remains is that bassist Robby is the onstage sprinter/cheerleader (and occasional singer) and Johnny the raconteur. Both, as Robby would say, continue to “spread the Buffalo gospel.”

The band revels playing before family, old friends, and longtime fans. Many of those fans had their children in tow, bringing them into the Goos fold. There were, at Saturday’s show, about a dozen fans on either side of the stage for the entire set.

“I’m always nervous when we play here.... This song’s for you,” said lead vocalist Rzeznik before the first chords of “Name,” one that made them ever-expanding stars in the rock and roll cosmos.

“This is perfect,” Rzeznik would say during the show, “this is exactly what summer is supposed to be like. It’s all good.” Before “Come to Me” he’d tell one and all how he’d written it for his then-girlfriend, “I thought it was pretty cool she would have a song written for her.”

Collective Soul came out swinging. And it was about mid-set that lead vocalist/powerhouse Ed Roland said what might’ve been on the minds of many. “We started in the ’90s, we are NOT of the ’90s. We still (expletive) rock.”

The band indeed released their latest, “See What You Started by Continuing” last year and treated those before them at Darien Lake to a brand new song (“This is our third time playing it”) that will be released on another album next year: “We’re in a groove,” the singer said.

That song, “All Our Pieces,” was slower and more pensive than their string of rockers on Saturday night, including “Heavy” and a rocked-up rendition of “Amazing Grace,” swooping into an extended version of “Shine.”

The band dedicated their closer, “The World I Know,” to The Tragically Hip, a beautiful gesture and moment in the perfect set. “Life has its moments,” said Roland.

The night’s opening band, Tribe Society, who emerged on the Manhattan music scene from ashes of another band, rocked hard. At their core is electric flute adding a distinctive layer to their sound.

Flutist Seth Hachen gives Jethro Tull’s rock flute memories a run for their money. Their cover of The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” fit right in with their grunge-prog sound.

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