Goo Goo Dolls: Kansas City Starlight Theatre
90s music was a big part of what I now see as shaping the music I gravitate towards, but not for why you might assume. You see, I didn’t grow up listening to what most did. Reflecting, I can say with certainty that music was my outlet. One of the big bands during this time was the Goo Goo Dolls. I can remember being on a trip with my sister, just the two of us, and they came on the radio, I was instantly hooked. You might even say I was obsessed because I ended up going to Best Buy at the time and acquired all of their albums. “Name” and “Acoustic #3” off their fifth album, were in such heavy daily rotation that I’m surprised I didn’t wear out the cd.
The albums that pushed their success to a new level started with, A Boy Named Goo, followed by Dizzy Up the Girl. If you still aren’t familiar with them, you might recognize the song “Iris” from the City of Angels soundtrack. Rzeznik was about to leave the band prior to being approached to write a song for this soundtrack. “Iris” earned the band 18 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay with; 4 of those weeks being at number 1. “Iris” ultimately helped them become household names. When I think of 90s grunge and rock and roll, I think of the sound that came from songs like, “Fallin’ Down,” “Cuz You’re Gone,” “Long Way Down,” “Burnin’ Up,” “Naked,” “Dizzy,” “Broadway,” “Black Balloon,” and “Bullet Proof.”
Don’t ask me to remember the year, but many years back, I do remember buying 2 tickets to one of their shows in the Houston, Texas area to see them for the first time. The time lapse between these two shows is vast, and time has changed a lot for me. I recently wrote a Facebook post about rediscovering their music. Their sound has evolved since their start, and the band members have changed, with just lead singer Johnny Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac remaining, but let me assure that their energy hasn’t lost any speed.
Have you ever wondered how the band came up with their name? The original lineup of members included Johnny, Robby and George Tutuska (drums). Robby and George were longtime friends and met Johnny, who was playing in a band with Robby’s cousin. Their name came from a True Detective ad for a toy called a Goo Goo Doll. “We were young, and we were a garage band not trying to get a deal. We had a gig that night and needed a name. It’s the best we came up with, and for some reason it stuck. If I had five more minutes, I definitely would have picked a better name” John said. They released their first album in 1987.
The band, which formed in 1985, call Buffalo, NY home. “Miracle Pill” is their newest release as of this year. Rzeznik lost both of his musical parents at the age of 15 and notes his influences as The Rolling Stones, Ramones, Kiss, and The Cure. Takac has his own record label in Buffalo called, Good Charamel Records. They primarily release Japanese rock and female fronted bands in North America. He also started the nonprofit, Music is Art Festival.
I was honored to have the opportunity to photograph them at The Starlight Theater in Kansas City, MO on June 21, 2019 as they provided support for Train. This outdoor theater opened in 1951 and boasts a seating capacity of 7,958. Broadway shows and concerts are held here, and it hails as one of two major remaining producing outdoor theaters in the US. While I had attended my first show in 2017 to see the legendary Willie Nelson, I had not ever had the opportunity to photograph at this venue.
The Goo Goo Dolls set included songs for fans at every stage of knowing the band. We were treated to hearing their new single, “Miracle Pill.” The crowd erupted in cheering when they began long standing favorite, “Iris.” During “Black Balloon,” they sent out several beach ball sized black balloons for the crowd to volley in the air. It was a perspective I enjoyed while listening. My favorite moment was hearing Johnny talk about his career and how he isn’t qualified to do anything other than write songs while he held his acoustic guitar. His story then led into him singing “Name.” My eyes got misty hearing that song live. Bare footed and in jeans rolled up to the bottom of his knees, we got to hear Robby sing a couple songs when he wasn’t running around the stage and rocking out. “Broadway” was another one of their older songs they sang to an overjoyed audience. They did a fantastic job of choosing a mix of songs for their set from their vast catalogue. The crowd near the stage was dancing with hands enthusiastically in the air for almost the entire set. Looking around, I could see the diversity in age with fans across generations singing every word to every song in their set.
After smiling during their entire show at the memories each song evoked, I can honestly say my feelings for this band and their music hasn’t changed. Go to a live show and fuel your soul with the music that makes an impact on your life!
For more on the Goo Goo Dolls: