Written By | Luke Usry
Crouched in the narrow aisle bisecting the Tabernacle’s sprawling, audience-packed mezzanine and staring down at the stage as Johnny Rzeznik, Robby Takac, and the rest of the band that rounds out this tour’s incarnation of international pop-rock sensations The Goo Goo Dolls emerge from backstage to the crowd’s cacophonous roar, I find myself wondering where the time has gone.
It does indeed seem like yesterday that I walked into the FYE at the Macon Mall and exchanged the crisp twenty dollar bill my grandmother had folded inside my tenth birthday card for a copy of what would become one of the landmark albums of both the 1990’s and my own adolescence: The Goo Goo Dolls’ quadruple platinum masterpiece Dizzy up the Girl. Propelled by the mega success of lead single “Iris” that spent a record-setting 18 weeks at the top of the Hot 100 charts as well as the three additional top-twenty singles it spawned, Dizzy Up the Girl quickly became a ubiquitous presence in the musical landscape throughout 1999 and even well into 2000. Even today, the album’s heavy-hitter singles like “Black Balloon,” and “Slide” show no sign of leaving the musical vernacular any time soon.
On this ninth day of October in the year of 2018, the band intends to perform the album in it’s entirety. Illuminated by piercing blue stage lights and poised beneath what must be at least a five by fifteen foot framed print of Melanie Nissen’s breathtaking album cover image, the familiar faces of Johnny and Robbie seem untouched by the two decades that have passed in the interim since the album’s release. Now in their early fifties, it’s almost refreshing to see that the two founding members exhibit none of the intense dermatological aging and strained vocals that are symptomatic of years spent putting royalty checks up one’s nose. After a few moments of strobe lights and a grating,
industrial-inspired stage intro, the band drops into the album’s hard-rocking leadoff track “Dizzy” and begins what will prove to be a deftly performed song-by-song celebration of their most enduring album to date.
One of the things I most admire about The Goo Goo Dolls from a song writing perspective is their unique ability to successfully navigate the often narrow and trepidatious precipice between gritty punk rock and mainstream sensibilities and I believe that a great deal of Dizzy Up the Girl’s strength is built on that foundational core competency. Who other than The Goo Goo Dolls can produce music that is as simultaneously commercially viable and lyrically bleak? Although most of the soul-crushingly depressing imagery was lost on my sheltered suburban preteen ears (I seriously thought he was singing about an infant with a literal black balloon), subsequent listens on the part of adult Luke have yielded a far more thorough evaluation of the full scope of darkness and misery explored by the beautifully composed and lyricized album: Addiction, Mental Illness, Grief, Loneliness. Thematically speaking, Dizzy up the Girl really is a thirteen course meal of human tragedy so expertly seasoned and plated that a listener can come to the table countless times without ever suspecting just how close to the edge of the abyss we have come.
It’s a phenomenon evidenced readily by the energetic and, at times raucous audience who’s disconnect from the underlying spirit of the material being performed does not seem to be lost on Reznik. Discussing the challenges he was facing in his personal life during the time he was writing the album, Johnny mentions his divorce to an eruption of cheers from the audience. Responding with a mixture of astonishment and amusement, he shakes his head and asks “Really? Is everyone here fucking divorced or something?” It’s a sad moment, really, to see an artist try to share a tidbit of the process involved in creating this wonderful album only to find his words fall on the tone-deaf ears of an audience that would have benefitted from a less enthusiastic degree of imbibement.
touring on a hit record from twenty years ago, a kind of benign elephant in the room that he addresses with the occasional self-effacing joke. However, to perceive the Dolls’ Dizzy Up the Girl 20th Anniversary Tour as one of those all-too-common “aging Rockstar cash grab” endeavors would be to ignore the multiple albums’ worth of high quality albeit less commercially successful material the band has released in the ensuing decades. As if to emphasize the band’s active creative status, the set that follows the album is built almost entirely of songs from a handful of their most recent albums. All in all, the Dizzy Up the Girl 20th Anniversary tour is a once in a lifetime concert experience sure to satisfy music lovers of all stripes.