Goo Goo Dolls return to Pittsburgh

InterviewJuly 24, 2011Beaver County Times

PITTSBURGH -- Buffalo-bred rockers the Goo Goo Dolls hold a spot in their hearts for Pittsburgh.

"Pittsburgh was always on that loop of places we could get to in those early days and almost be back in time for work the next day," bassist Robby Takac said.

Lost in the shuffle of the late-'80s post-punk movement, the Goo Goo Dolls catapulted from clubs to concert halls -- and never again had to fret about day jobs -- after embracing a more adult-contemporary sound on 1995's "A Boy Named Goo" that spawned the Top-5 song "Name."

Three years later came the mega-hit ballad "Iris" powered by its soundtrack placement and corresponding video from Nicolas Cage's "City of Angels".

Takac, singer John Rzeznik, and drummer Mike Malinin will revisit the Goo Goo Dolls hits, dust off a few deep tracks, and feature cuts from 2010's signature sounding "Something for the Rest Of Us," when the band headlines Stage AE in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Michelle Branch and the Parachutes are the support acts.

"It's our third summer in a row being out on the road so we've really revamped the setlist," Takac said in a phone interview. "A few of our songs we know we can't get out of the building without playing, but we've tried to reach back a little further, so it might be an enlightening experience for some. I'd say a good third of the setlist is different."

The band can select "All That You Are," which appears on the soundtrack to the new "Transformers" album alongside hard-rocking acts like Black Veil Brides, Linkin Park, Staind, and Mastodon.

Takac got to see an advance screening of the "Transformers" scene in which the Goo Goo Dolls' song is played, "and that's probably the only scene I'll ever see."

He's not a fan of "Transformers" or similar movies.

"Growing up, I was into the Rolling Stones, not science fiction," he said.

But appearing on a blockbuster movie's soundtrack is valuable exposure, he said.

Like most veteran bands, the Goo Goo Dolls have adapted to the times, making themselves more available to fans.

"It's a different world out there now; rock stars aren't sitting in castles in the south of France anymore, you've got to be willing to interact with fans and give them a little more of an experience," Takac said.

With that aim, the Goo Goo Dolls offer the Inner Machine, an official fan club that provides exclusive audio, video and Q&As, plus lottery drawings for which winners get backstage access to the band.

Although in an summer that's seen Elvis Costello drag fans onto the stage to spin a song wheel, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift soar above their audiences on platforms, and Tommy Lee ride a drumkit rollercoaster with a contest winner, the Goo Goo Dolls are more content to just plug in and play.

"We want to get on stage and rock, and not do what some choreographer told us to do," Takac said.

That leaves room for spontaniety.

"There's always that option; that wild-card moment; that keeps it exciting for the band, and the fans, too," Takac said.

Asked his most exciting memory of Pittsburgh, Takac didn't hesitate.

"Oh, man, the Electric Banana and Graffiti," he said, recalling two late, great clubs from the Goo Goo Dolls' early touring days.

The Goo Goo Dolls began as a garage band with an even sillier name, the Sex Maggots. Needing a new name in a hurry before a gig, they came up with Goo Goo Dolls.

"I wish we had taken another 20 minutes to think of a name, because then I wouldn't have had to spend the past 25 years explaining it," Takac said.

Well, it beats Toad the Wet Sprocket.

"Everyone says that. That's always the example, Toad the Wet Sprocket," Takac said. "At least that has a literary reference."

Literary, as in Monty Python.

Chances are Wednesday that Rzeznik or Takac will ask fans to give a hometown cheer for the band's touring keyboard player, Korel Tunador, a Pittsburgh native who played in the local band Crisis Car.

People coming to the show are urged to donate non-perishable food items, which the band gives to U.S.A. Harvest, a nonprofit group that channels that food to needy residents.

"It all stays in the same community; no money changes hands," Takac said.

In the 14 years the band has worked with U.S.A. Harvest, the group has provided 10 million meals to the needy.

There's an extra incentive for Goo Goo Dolls fans to donate food Wednesday: "Whoever brings the most stuff comes backstage to meet the band and have a picture taken," Takac said.