Goo Goo Dolls celebrate 24 years of Syracuse memories

The upstate heroes played a lighthearted, often nostalgic show at the OnCenter Tuesday night.

John Rzeznik pointed to a girl in the crowd as the music died down and the lights dimmed. He waved his hand toward his chest, brushing his large golden necklace, signaling for the girl to pass up her big, blinking sign. “Let me see that,” he said. The crowd parted and formed an assembly line across the rows, sending the white sign Rzeznik’s way. It read “biggest fan” in large, blue letters with a row of blinking white swirls underneath. “This is a technological marvel,” he said, gawking at the flashing poster. “Do you want it back?”

Photo: Anthony Garito
John Rzeznik pulls a fans sign from the crowd during the Goo Goo Dolls concert Tuesday night at the OnCenter in Syracuse.

The sign slowly made its way back to the proud fan as Rzeznik rejoined his band members, Mike Malinin and Robby Takac. They form the Goo Goo Dolls, originally a Buffalo bar band that’s evolved over the last 24 years into a pop-rock sensation. The group performed Tuesday night in Syracuse at the Crouse-Hinds Concert Theater for a sold-out house, filling the relatively intimate venue with classics like “Slide,” “Iris,” and “Black Balloon,” all former Billboard chart hits.

Though the Goo Goo Dolls have thoroughly shed the image of an unknown Buffalo band, the group revisited fond memories of its humble start playing club gigs in Syracuse. Rzeznik, the lead singer and guitarist, used to drive to Syracuse late in the afternoon for shows once he finished his day job of manning the hot dog cart outside the Buffalo county courthouse.

Takac also remembers Syracuse distinctly, though he recalls less of the city’s music scene and more of its drinking culture. “Everyone at Syracuse is really smart because they paint their drunken college students in safety orange and let them run around the streets,” Takac said, laughing.

The band carried that light-hearted, carefree mood throughout the night, engaging the crowd with jokes about pirating music, bad backs and the miraculous longevity of the Goo Goo Dolls. Before playing “Name,” a favorite from the band’s 1995 album A Boy Named Goo, Rzeznik leaned into the microphone and lamented, “Only two of us can remember when this song came out: me and this dude right here.”

The spotlight shifted to a middle-aged man in the front row. Rzeznik chuckled with the guy, finding common ground among a crowd of mostly twenty- and thirty-somethings. “Aw, I’m just kidding. Here, thanks for being a good sport, dude,” Rzeznik said, flicking his guitar pick to the fan.

Some scattered compliments found their way into the mix, too – like showing appreciation for such a large turnout to a concert on a weeknight in the midst of a poor economy. “I know times are tight, so I just wanted to say thank you for coming out tonight,” Rzeznik said. He also counted his blessings in terms of staying power, a luxury most other 90s pop bands haven’t seen. Enjoying his extended time in the limelight, Rzeznik spotted a camera-holder in the crowd Tuesday night and gave her a nice shout-out.

"Hey, you. Yeah you, with the videocamera," Rzeznik said. "Keep rolling. I want to see this sh*t on YouTube."

The Goo Goo Dolls, on tour to promote their album Something For the Rest of Us, made a stop in Syracuse Tuesday night at the OnCenter. (Photo: Anthony Garito)


That was a great show <3 Great band <3 and Great sign! <3  :P  Ok, I'm biased.. it was my sign, but still...  :P  This was also a great review and I love coming back to read it now and then...

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