Main Street is bright tonight, a little less bleaker than it used to be.
The marquee outside Shea’s Buffalo Theatre, long ago left for dead and since brought back to brilliance, shines this weekend with a welcome home for the Goo Goo Dolls, who on Friday night played the first of three sold-out shows on a nationwide tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their quadruple-platinum selling album, "Dizzy Up the Girl."
Thursday morning, the band was performing hijinks and hits on “LIVE with Kelly and Ryan”; Saturday afternoon, founding members and hometown heroes Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac planned to settle in quaint Oxford Pennant shop, a block up from Shea’s, meeting fans and signing merchandise made for the occasion.
Such is much of the Goos' story - an affable balance of both modern music icons and approachable boys next-door. While they've added some onstage comforts over the decades from the Continental to KeyBank Center and nearly every Buffalo stage in between - Johnny now has an arsenal of guitars for all his odd tunings, Robby now wears socks - the scene still feels like an arena-sized family reunion, as four of the happiest feet in the concert business cover every corner of the stage with sincere smiles and rock 'n' roll raised fists.
The band began the show by performing "Dizzy" in its entirety, with Rzeznik and Takac joined by Brad Fernquist, on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Jim McGorman, on keyboards and vocals; and Craig Macintyre on drums. They opened with three Billboard hits in the rave-up title track, the chart-topping "Slide" that certified their evolution into both stardom and the acoustic side of alternative rock, and the jilted jangle of "Broadway" that beckons Rzeznik's bareknuckle beginnings on Buffalo's East Side, where the disillusionment and restlessness at the soul of his lyrics still reside.
As much a fan favorite here for returning home to raise his family and create the ever-amazing Music Is Art foundation, Takac first took the lead back on the rollicking "January Friend," taking a break from skipping around like a kid who ate a case of Pez.
The first ballad in "Black Balloon" found the crowd singing along, which of course happened again toward the end of the album on the all-time hit "Iris," as Rzeznik - aided by the local string section of Will Knuth and Evan Courtin, violins; Derek Chazen, viola; Katie Weissman, cello; Richie English, composer/conductor - repeatedly held up his mic for help on the famous chorus.
Rzeznik then went solo - kind of - for a silly three-song segue into a second set of hits, bantering and playing with a prerecorded video of himself before the band returned.
[Related: Smiles before Goo Goo Dolls' show at Shea's]
Before belting out their 1995 breakout "Name," he recalled his desperate longing to break out of the funk of their Norwood Avenue apartment, where he wrote the fluke hit that sparked their stardom.
"I just wanna thank you all for remembering this song and keeping the gas in the tank for this band," Rzeznik said.
The feeling is mutual among us. No matter how far they roam, Buffalo's friendly neighborhood rockstars will always be home here.
Goo Goo Dolls, Oct. 19 in Shea's Buffalo Theatre.
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