High school was a grand time for rock music. I attended probably close to 20 shows in 2 years and spent a significant amount of my lawn mowing income on the likes of Green Day, Lenny Kravitz, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, and Finger 11. My concert going days have waned since my New Orleans experience concluded. Occasionally there is a show here and there that I attend, and one of those happened to be this past Friday evening.
The tremendous Minnesota State Fair kicked off this past Thursday, and it's an event that still confuses me. I can't say I've ever been particularly fond of anything "fair" but the people in Minnesota are absolutely fanatical about it. Every newscast and radio show will originate from the fairgrounds featuring fluff pieces on new born baby animals and the latest exhibit on display. The greatest fascination though is with the food there as people go Maurice Jones-Drew touchdown crazy for items on a stick. Even my wife, who won't go anywhere near these deep fried and speared concoctions, takes tremendous pride in the latest invention. From deep fried twinikies on a stick to teriaki ostrich to spam, all possible food go into the fryer and out on a stick for your heart stopping enjoyment. It's good fun, but this year's trip into the fairgrounds was not food related.
While I did enjoy a few food items, I enjoyed the entertainment even more. For the first time, I took in a show at the Grandstand. A massive set of bleachers erected in the heart of the fair, I was surprised at how many people it held as from the outside I did not expect such a seating capacity. It was no 100,000 people crammed for Metallica at Rockfest 2000, but still a surprisingly strong turn out for the headlining and apparently Elmo-loving Goo Goo Dolls.
But first there were the opening acts who deserve a few lines. I wasn't sure who the opening artist was and despite having since been told who it was a few times can't remember. It was a young woman named Cay Calililly or something who sings that one pop song that has a whole bunch of rhyming words. Vague, I know but so is pop music in general. Once she played her one semi-famous song I kinda remembered hearing it and how it went, and therein lies the definition of an opening act.
The second performance brought back VRC memories. For the first time in five years, the JR professed mega hit Sick Cycle Carousel singing Athletics Recreation Center rocking act Lifehouse took the stage. They were much much improved from that debacle in Indiana, and I attribute it to five more years to enhance their performance skills, new song development, and reflection on the scathing criticism they no doubt once read in the Torch.
With that said, they were most enjoyable. While a fine recorded song, I still just don't think "Hanging by a Moment" translates into a good live song. Fortunately, they disposed of this hugely played hit early in their set allowing their current hits "First Time" and "You and Me and All of the People" to anchor their performance. My favorite song of theirs from the evening was the unreleased single "The Joke," which was an incredibly catchy, well performed live track. I rarely remember songs that I had not heard previous to a concert, but this one was worthwhile. They also get points for a cover song, choosing the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden" for a little reworking. It was a fine choice as was the fashion for the evening. Bassist Bryce Soderberg wore a CBS Sports t-shirt that was questionably a nod to the fine work of one Verne Lundquist and his sweaters.
The main event used their much earlier single "Long Way Down" to kick off the performance. I appreciated the step back in time as most know and understandably enjoy the more recent efforts like "Slide," "Broadway," "Iris," and "Stay With You" all of which were great Friday night. Having enjoyed the Goo Goo Dolls "Live in Buffalo" album from a couple years ago, I was hoping to hear "Black Balloon" as it was a standout on the aforementioned disc. I was pleased when in fact it was in the track listing and was accompanied with humongous black balloons that rained down upon concert goers. It was a neat visual spectacle to compliment the fantastic song, and by golly in a nod to my five-year-old inner self, I got to hit a black balloon high into the sky. Whee!
The show was delightful to be sure, but it was not without it's downfalls. The most glaring of which is an over indulgence of Robby Takac's singing. I understand the obligatory one or two Robby Takac songs per album, and I can happily press fast forward through them. However, that option is unavailable at a live show and when the bassist sings (and I recently learned that he was the original lead singer of the band), it's not good. When he sings four songs, it creates a big black hole in the middle of the set. Upon his image being placed on the big screen, Becky turned to me and commented that this man was uglier than the lead singer of Nickelback, which I found to be immensely funny and very true. Upon his vocals leaving the Grandstand speakers, Becky again turned to me and asked, "What was that crap?" which I also found to be immensely funny and very true.
Lead singer and Catholic raised (boo-yah!) Johnny Rzeznik while light years better than Takac ran into a problem that no doubt haunts all big bands with a great many singles. Some are going to be left out, which will disappoint fans of that one particular song. The Goo opted to pass on "Better Days," which was a little surprising considering they played three non-singles from their most recent album. Becky later mentioned that it would have made for a nice emotionally laced encore had they tied the song into the recent bridge disaster, and I would agree. Instead, they wrapped up the show with a song that I did not recognize, which is tough since I know most every song from their last four albums. It was a fine song, but c'mon let's end with a bang.
At the conclusion of the performance, I was prepared to make my way out of the Grandstand when shots were fired. Ok, so they were really fireworks, but I wasn't expecting them and thought we all might be dead. Fortunately my quick thinking reverted back to firework safety tips, and I sat down and enjoyed the colorful conclusion to the evening's festivities.
Photo from MuppetCentral