Some albums can take you back to a very specific time and place in your life. For me, one of those albums is 1998’s Dizzy Up the Girl from the Goo Goo Dolls. That album turned 20 years old this year. Naturally, when they announced a tour to celebrate it, I had to be there.
I remember going to the mall with my grandma and buying that CD when it came out. I had two older brothers, and my grandma’s house had only two TVs. So I basically never got to choose what to watch. Usually, in cases I didn’t wanna watch what my brothers picked, I would go to my room and listen to music. I must have listened to Dizzy Up the Girl at least 1,000 times in that bedroom.
It’s an album I hadn’t really revisited much in recent years. I haven’t really followed the Goo Goo Dolls much the last decade or so. The last album of theirs I really connected with was 2002’s Gutterflower. Find me a song that brings a smile to your face the way “Big Machine” does for me.
Showing up at the Hollywood Palladium, it was awesome to see it packed. It was definitely an older crowd, probably a mid-thirties average age. It was great to see the excitement on people’s faces. One guy in particular was wigging out over hearing “All Eyes On Me”. He said he had never seen the band play it in the half-dozen times or so he’d seen them.
When they took the stage to the guitar riff for the album-opening song “Dizzy”, the eight-year-old version of myself squealed with joy. A few of the people in music I was at the show with waited around for the hits “Black Balloon” and “Iris” — obviously, they overlooked how strong an album it is. “Slide” was a mega hit when it dropped as one of the singles. Its guitar melody is reminiscent of sentimental ’90s rock like Gin Blossoms, Better Than Ezra and the like — the kind of music that doesn’t get its just due on alt-rock radio these days. John Rzeznik and Co. sure know how to write a fucking hook.
Considering I hadn’t really listened to the album in years, I still knew all the words. The song “Broadway” was always a favorite. These guys might be 20 years older, but the band sounds as tight as they did in 1998. Rzeznik’s voice has held up wonderfully.
“Black Balloon” was a clear crowd favorite. It’s crazy to think this song about heroin was such a pop radio favorite but I realize this was around the time Third Eye Blind had songs about crystal meth in commercials for The Tigger Movie.
One thing to note about this 20th anniversary — only Rzeznik and bassist and fellow songwriter Robby Takac remain from the lineup that put out the record. The rest of this band at this point are just touring members. They were able to play the songs up to the expectations of the crowd. Takac sang lead vocals on four songs on Dizzy Up The Girl. I mostly skipped those songs when I listened to them as a kid, but they grew on me.
“All Eyes On Me” was a deep cut that didn’t get its due respect when the album dropped because it had so many successful singles. Rzeznik’s voice as he slides into the chorus is powerful.
As expected, “Iris” was a massive sing-along, with couples slow-dancing to the tune that shook Rzeznik out of a bad case of writer’s block. I remember it being on the City of Angels soundtrack (one of the greatest ’90s soundtracks ever), paving the way to Dizzy Up the Girl selling more than four million copies.
My favorite deep cut was always the album-closing “Hate This Place”. It has a brilliant chorus, with Rzeznik shouting “Hold on, dream away / You’re my sweet charade”. I used to play that song over and over again listening to it.
It was a whirlwind of emotions listening to that album play front-to-back. It helped me time travel to a simpler time, for sure. The band left the stage, and Rzeznik returned for a gimmicky set of three songs where he had a video screen of himself. The video screen version played “Better Days” on guitar with the real-life version singing vocals. Then the video version sang on “Can’t Let It Go”.
The rest of the band returned to the stage with “Name” being a highlight. That was the song that broke them big off 1995’s A Boy Named Goo (also what first made me aware of them). They closed with an encore of “Big Machine” — only fitting that they ended things with another massive singalong.
If you ever get a chance to see a band perform an album in its entirety that played a big part in your youth, do it. As was the case with the Goo Goo Dolls, most bands only take these kinds of victory laps if they’re going to put the effort into doing it right. I ended up walking out with a vinyl copy of the record — one of few albums I’ve bought at a show this year.
Words by Mark Ortega
Photos by Betsy Martinez