The five-piece from Reading was the first to go on stage, mixing an indie-pop vibe with a sense of grunge-punk Americana. Their still-in-college look and witty tunes capture depth and attitude in their performance, with songs such as ‘Knives and Flowers’ and their latest single ‘Hear Me Out!’ which show that they know who they are as a band and they’re not afraid to express some angst through their lyrics and delivery.
The audience were soon eagerly involved in their performance, thanks to the band’s charming nature and true compatibility. Their crowd-pleasing songs such as ‘Honey’, ‘Louder’, self-titled ‘Valeras’ and (a personal favourite) ‘Painkiller’, provided a unique mix of fast-pace delivery through continuous drums, natural-sounding guitar riffs, alongside Rose’s bluesy-type lead voice and the awesome backing harmonies from Kate and the rest of the gang.
Rose’s subtle sassy gestures and her ability to engage with the audience throughout, paint her as a natural performer. The whole band’s element was to be on stage, and it showed, especially when Rose jumped to the barrier during the last song, encouraging the crowd to join in to a peak during their final song, as the set was coming to a close.
Although their performance was not short of exceptionally good sonic quality and performance, I found their sound and presence to not be the most fitting option as the support of Goo Goo Dolls, keeping in mind, for example, that they have previously supported the set for YONAKA during their ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ tour, which was what I felt like was a better scene and audience fit for them.
GOO GOO DOLLS
When it came to the headliners, Goo Goo Dolls managed to film out the entire venue, making it seem like they were the next hottest big thing, when in reality the power duo fronted the band for the past thirty-or-so years, showcasing their musicianship around the globe. In support of their latest album Miracle Pill, the set featured a mix of those nostalgic old favourites and cuts of the band’s latest album. Overall the set list was filled with feel-good tunes that did not disappoint in getting the crowd hyped up, who did not shy away from joining in and enjoying every minute of the show.
Starting off with the fun singalong ‘Indestructible’ with front man Johnny Rzeznik was all smiles while he, with the help of bassist Robby Takac, energetically brought the crowd to that sense of freedom that one feels at a Goo Goo Dolls concert.
Even though these guys are now both in their fifties there was a dynamic balance between them, with Rzeznik being the composed, cool older brother figure to Takac’s punk-rebel, spazzy younger sibling. They really manage to charm the audience with their presence and break generational barriers with their music. I noticed that a lot of the audience was an almost perfect mix of young adults (even teens) and adults in their mids, which gave me the impression that there were many families enjoying the concert together.
The duo bounced back and forth across the stage and often reaching out to the crowd, making them feel engaged and actively encourage them to be a part of it, which summed up the band’s ability to connect with them. There was a fair amount of interaction with the rest of the supporting band, which was nice to see, making them feel part of it rather than just some unknown blokes that are just there to provide support for the duo in the background.
With a guitar solo by their guitarist, they then broke into ‘Slide‘. The crowd sang along enthusiastically, before breaking into ‘Miracle Pill’ and ‘Black Balloon’, as actual black balloons rained down on the crowd.
While the set showcased the musicianship of the group by featuring an eclectic mix of upbeat and mellow tunes, as well as new and older favourites, I had some mixed feelings about certain parts of the performance. There were tiny moments throughout were I felt like the duo seemed to be a little bit awkward on stage, as though they might have been trying a little too hard. I don’t know if it might have been something that I had misinterpreted, the fact that they might have felt like they had something to prove, or because they didn’t quite feel confident enough in their music or performance skills.
Nevertheless, they owned the show. The performance was definitely enhanced by the lights and the projections, which helped showcase the individual performances, the catchy and fun tunes, and, of course, the enthusiasm of the audience.
Closing off the evening was ‘Autumn Leaves’ and last on the list was ‘Iris’, of course. No Goo Goo Dolls set would be complete without it, as it’s the band’s most iconic song – it’s an anthem, a love ballad through the ages, and like it or not, it’s a song that really put the band on the map. I was really happy I got to experience it live and see how much it connected with every single person in the room, without a doubt. Everyone was on their feet, singing along without missing a single line or beat. It was the song everyone was looking forward to, and the perfect ending to the set and the night.