There is a torrential downpour in Buffalo, New York. It’s that kind of oppressive rain: cold and relentless. It comes down in sheets, soaking the worn crowd in Buffalo’s Niagara Square. A few umbrellas pop up, but most of the fans raise their arms to the sky. They are there for one reason.
No one is more aware of this than Johnny Rzeznik, lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls. Soaked to the bone, staring out from the stage with a sly smile on his face, Rzeznik stops and takes it all in. The soft acoustics of “Here Is Gone” begin to fill the night. Johnny plaintively asks, “It feels good, don’t it?”
Watching the Goo Goo Dolls homecoming performance on the DVD included with “Live in Buffalo,” there is something magical in the air. Even absent the rain, which doesn’t fall until the last third of the show, the songs fill the night. The raw instrumentation is the most notable aspect, evident in “Black Balloon” which beautifully juxtaposes delicate acoustic picks against evocative piano. The album gives no hint as to when the storm starts, a credit to the band’s professionalism. During the show, however, the shower gives the show an epic, almost religious, quality. The slow, precise, acoustic work of “Iris” plays against painful mandolin, and gives way to quick, distorted, electric lines. “Iris,” a song of longing and heartbreak, pours like the rain from the storm.
Sadly, absent the atmosphere of the performance, the songs lose a little something in comparison to their original recordings. The most appealing aspect of a ballad are the vocals, and Rzeznik can’t match his production values. This is especially noticeable in songs such as “Big Machine,” when it feels as though Rzeznik is talking more than singing. There is a unity, a different kind of intimacy, in the live production. This comes from Rzeznik’s harsh, plaintive voice. It comes, however, at the expense of vocal range.
Some critics may say this album, like many live releases, is only for the die hard fans. To some extent they are right, as simply hearing the album is not justification to purchase it. Yet, there is something special about this Independence Day concert. There is a love of music in that band, playing against nature, playing for its fans. There is something in those fans with their arms raised to the sky. Live in Buffalo has heart.
DVD: 3 out of 5 stars
CD: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars