When a pop rock band becomes a household name, one that rings a bell to your mother, one you hear every day on the radio, and whose words resonate after decades, you have to wonder what it was that caught your ear from the beginning. How did the voices of these strangers become woven into your life?

The Goo Goo Dolls’ journey began in the ’80s, when the band transformed from a gutter-punk band-cleverly titled the Sex Maggots-to the group it is today. From love lost to the sheer sublime, during the last 20 years, the Dolls have been responsible for lyrics that have voiced the highs and lows of the lives of so many fans. Now touring for the second time after the successful release of their eighth album, Let Love In, the Dolls have made it their goal to perform shows exactly as their audiences have asked.

Last week, original bandmember and bassist Robby Takac graciously indulged my burning questions. “This tour is a little bit different because we have toured the entire United States, so we will play in the same venues for the second summer in a row,” Takac said. “We decided to make this time around more of an inclusive show by doing songs people are voting on.” According to Takac, the band’s official Web site provides fans the opportunity to vote on the songs they want to hear at shows, and the Dolls are happy to oblige. With such a collection of hit singles, it must be hard to cram years of music into one live performance, but Takac expressed his surprise at the songs that have been voted for thus far. They’re not the usual radio singles, and should pleasantly surprise faithful Goo Goo Dolls fans at their S.B. Bowl show this Monday night.

And despite some misgivings from Takac, fans can also expect slightly amped-up performance details. With new technologies continuing to change the shape of the national tour, projections, video screens, and fancy lights have upped production values in what Takac described as just “tossing a little bit of showbiz around.” Though going from grunge to glitz weighs heavily on a musician, his enthusiasm for the band’s success is clear: This is a group of artists dedicated to expressing themselves through their music and not letting the industry’s demise get the best of them.

For Takac, the power of his success hit him right in the face when “Better Days,” a hopeful song off the Dolls’ latest release, became the running score for Hurricane Katrina footage on CNN. “It was such an amazing representation of how a song can translate into someone’s life,” he said. “The optimism of the song really struck a chord.”

The East Coast roots of the band and memories of life before L.A. has always played the muse, and this idea of returning to the beginning is seen everywhere from the Dolls’ universal lyrics and their tribute to American classic rock, to their dedication to local and national charities. After traveling to New Orleans and playing a free concert for the residents there in the early stages of the Katrina devastation, the Dolls decided to take action. The guys teamed with U.S.A. Harvest to harness the influence of the industry for the bettering of others. “We have a great street team that has done collections in the style of an old-fashioned food drive. People take the initiative, and we have now raised between 2.5 million-3 million meals,” said Takac.

The Dolls’ concert will be opened by music biz newcomer Colbie Caillat and rock balladeers Lifehouse, and the audience is encouraged to bring cans to the show. There will be a drop-off site at the concert run by members of the Goo Goo Dolls’ street team, providing a welcome reminder that the Dolls continue to lead by example in creating lasting music and lasting impressions.


The Goo Goo Dolls perform a concert of favorites at the S.B. Bowl this Monday, June 25, at 6:15 p.m. Call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for tickets and info.


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