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Goo Goo Dolls Get Political at New York Show: 'We Are Living in Interesting Times'

The Goo Goo Dolls perform at Jones Beach Theater, 2017
Janette Pellegrini/Getty Images

The Goo Goo Dolls perform at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater on Aug. 13, 2017 in Wantagh, N.Y. 

“This is our song tonight,” Goo Goo Dolls singer Johnny Rzeznik told the crowd before playing “Better Days” at the Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, N.Y., on Aug. 13. With the lyrics “I wish everyone was loved tonight, and somehow stop this endless fight … ’cause tonight’s the night the world begins again,” it was one of two nods during the 90-minute-plus set to the events that unfolded in Charlottesville, N.C., over the weekend.

The other came before “Flat Top,” which references a cultural “war between the cynics and the saints” where “sleeping on the White House lawn never changed a thing.”

“We are living in interesting times, people,” said Rzeznik before playing the track, which is from the 1995 double-platinum-selling album that put the alternative rock band on the map, A Boy Named Goo. “All of the sudden these lyrics are relevant again, with all the strange situations going on in this world — you know what I'm talking about. But whatever side you're on, I don't give a f--k.”

There’s nothing like a good dose of nostalgia to take your mind off things, and the trip down memory lane certainly didn’t stop there. The band easily appeased the audience with their biggest hits, including Dizzy Up the Girl classics “Slide," “Black Balloon" and “Broadway,” as a headband-wearing Rzeznik coolly chewed gum while strumming his guitar. Before busting out their breakthrough hit, 1995's “Name,” the self-deprecating singer waxed nostalgic for his own version of the ’90s — pre-pop stardom: “We used to travel in a van to hipster bars before there were [so many] hipsters. We were indie rock darlings, and then we wrote this song and f--ked it up and became bitter — and nobody likes that s--t.”

But of course the song many fans were waiting for was “Iris,” the ubiquitous, career-defining 1998 hit that haunts -- and maybe even taunts -- the band. Saved for the end of the set (but surprisingly not the encore, which came in the form of the title track of their 2016 album Boxes), it seemed like a little dark cloud looming over Rzeznik’s head, when midway through the show he pointed out that people were leaving to take a “piss break” every time the band played a new song.

“You all think, ‘We can take a piss, get a beer and be back in time to here them play “Iris” and then get the f--k out of here,’” he half-jokingly griped before performing “Use Me,” the lead single from their recently released EP -- ironically titled You Should Be Happy -- before advising, “Reconsider your piss break. This song could change your life.” 

Other pockets of downtime came when bassist Robby Takac took over the mic for four songs, including the only two pre-Goo tracks in the set, “Lucky Star” and “Already There.” There’s no shame in letting another band member take the spotlight for a minute, but the transition from Rzeznik’s laid-back self-confidence to Takac’s bare-footed ball-of-energy attitude was bumpy at best.

And just as Rzeznik predicted, as soon as he strummed the last note of “Iris,” many in the crowd made a beeline for the doors -- which makes you wonder a little why they didn’t hold the song for the encore.

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