PORTLAND — It was hard to determine who had more fun at the State Theatre on Tuesday night: The band or the crowd.
The Goo Goo Dolls ripped the joint with 80 minutes of unpretentious power-punk and pure pop, and the audience – by appearances, mostly folks in their 40s, but quite a few younger fans, as well – stood throughout and grooved with the hook-laden songs dished out by the venerable Buffalo quartet.
Lead singer John Rzeznik oozed charisma. Dressed in black with ’80s rock band hair, he sometimes channeled the arena-rock brethren that he grew up with, pouncing around the stage with microphone in hand, cutting poses and slapping hands with the fans down front. He toyed with the fans, too, asking one woman who held up a sign seeking his hand in marriage, “I married for love once. … Are you loaded? Maybe you can just go into monumental debt for me.”
He laughed and smiled often, and gave the impression that he was genuinely happy to be on stage in Portland.
Bass player and vocalist Robby Takac also created the image that he wanted to be nowhere else. He told stories about his day off in Portland on Monday. He ate lobster, got a haircut and visited the cyrptozoology museum just up the street from the theater, even posing for a photo with the stuffed Big Foot.
With floppy hair bouncing around his head, he assaulted his bass, raced around the stage and made goofy facial expressions with his eyes and mouth, drawing adoring screams from his fans.
Exuberant personalities aside, the reason Tuesday’s show felt like such fun was because the Goo Goo Dolls have not sacrificed their musicianship for showmanship. They had fun, and they played well. Rzeznik and Takac sang with authority, moving easily between the songs that made them stars, like “Iris” and “Name,” and less familiar material from the latest record – “Not Broken,” which opened the encore, especially felt authentic. The band was super-tight, thanks largely to the precision of drummer Mike Malinin.
The audience did its part, standing throughout the show, singing along with “Iris” and filling the State with what sounded like pure joy and thunderous applause.
The opening band for the show, The Spill Canvas, offered up a taut 45-minute set of punk-bred rock. Nick Thomas, the band’s lead singer, did a good job holding the crowd’s attention, weaving mostly hard-edged songs in with others that were tuneful and evocative.