Maybe it was the early rain that kept the crowds away. Maybe it was the too-long, too-loud opening performance that featured Daughtry and a tambourine. Or maybe it was just the midweek concert date for a band whose average dedicated fan is probably well over 30.
Either way, when The Goo Goo Dolls emerged quietly onstage shortly after 9 p.m. from PNC Music Pavilion Wednesday night, they faced an audience that was sparse, subdued and mostly sitting down.
But John Rzeznick, the 48-year-old lead singer of a 28-year-old band, didn’t seem to mind. “I’m kinda diggin’ this,” he said.
Because packed or not, the popular amphitheater – more typically a spot for country stars drawing hordes of the young and the beer-happy – sprawled before him, fans expectant.
Throughout the set, which balanced new hits with old and stretched more than 90 minutes, Rzeznick showed his appreciation for the audience that was there – tossing guitar picks to the fans with outstretched hands and dedicating songs to the ones that, he said, looked familiar. More than once, he took his hands off his guitar or moved his mouth from the microphone to encourage the crowd.
There were five of them, the Dolls, each playing multiple roles – the guitarists singing, the keyboardist playing saxophone – and creating the sense there was a much larger band on that stage.
“We’re the usual suspects,” Rzeznick said, introducing himself and backup singer Robby Takac, as if everyone in the audience had been there before.
And judging by the cheers, maybe they had. The band would play a newer song every now and then, throwing in the upcoming single "Caught in the Storm," but it wasn’t what these fans wanted to hear. They reacted instead to the familiar notes of 1998’s “Slide,” and, when black balloons bounced around the pit at the start of the 1999 single of the same name, a chorus of voices piped up around the venue.
“Old! Old is better!” a man in the aisle shouted, after the third song. And Rzeznick himself joked, during a guitar-tuning break, that after three decades in the business, that’s what The Goo Goo Dolls have: Grown men who yell “I love you!” when “it used to be young girls.”
But even as he said it, the crowd reacted, men and women calling out with adoration for the singer with the self-deprecating humor. They may not have filled even half of an amphitheater that seats nearly 20,000, but they were there – shouting their love, reaching for high-fives, fist-pumping in celebration when they got them.
And that seemed to be all The Goo Goo Dolls needed.