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By John Johnson, photos by Chaz D of Chaz D Photography

Although it was a Monday, a “school night”, and with an impending storm on the horizon, the crowd that gathered at The Sound could not have their spirits dampened. The Buffalo New York, and 90’s pop/rock radio staples, Goo Goo Dolls came to Clearwater to kick off their 2023 North American Tour, rain or shine. It was an early show, with doors opening at 4:30 and a projected start time of 6, but Mother Nature had other plans. A double deluge kept the audience members and certainly The Sound staff wondering whether or not the show would actually go on at all, let alone on time.
However, the covered attendees welcomed the lawn folk with open arms during the sporadic rainfall, and the crew at Coachman Park’s beautiful new venue carried on with care and precision. I believe this was the amphitheaters first tussle with Florida’s impromptu weather patterns, but I’d say they handled it amazingly announcing at around 7ish that the show, would in fact, go on.

At 8pm, roughly an hour and a half late, the Rockville Maryland O.A.R. took to the stage with overwhelming relief and gratitude from the relatively dry spectators. “We’ve been waiting for this for a couple years. Thank you for hanging with us through all that weather” said lead vocalist and guitarist Marc Roberge. Reminiscent of the Dave Mathews Band with a little reggae funk sprinkled in, O.A.R. was a total crowd pleaser.
Their loyal fanbase danced shoeless in the aisles and the newly baptized soon followed suit. O.A.R, which stands for “Of a Revolution”, consisting of seven touring members, seemed as excited to be playing their tunes, as the nearly sold-out crowd was to be hearing them. A particular standout was trumpet player/singer Jon Lampley, dancing and swaying to the smooth, often jam band-y melodies. Regardless of the rain delay, the tenacious instrumentalists were able to squeeze in an 11-song set consisting of 10 originals and a very impressive cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain”. Ironically or otherwise, a remarkably accurate rendition.

The song writing/performing duo of John Rzeznik and Robby Takac, better known as The Goo Goo Dolls, bolted on stage at 9:30 with their 3-piece support members.

Knowing that Clearwater has a sound curfew of 10pm, it had some wondering if they were only going to play for 30 minutes. Rumor has it, that Clearwater’s Mayor was in attendance and was said to have approved an hour extension to 11pm to appease the devotees that stuck it out through the soggy setback. Regardless of the reason behind the lengthening of said limit, it allowed the hook driven 5 piece to amass an impressive 25 song performance. This being the first night of their tour, one would expect a few hiccups, and there were. However, they would probably go unnoticed if not for singer Rzeznik’s self-deprecating ability to point out issues before they were noticed by the fans. Dressed in black capris and tank top, the definitely fit for 57 crooner covered most of the stage throughout the night, often motioning to a crew member to “turn me up”. “We almost drowned a couple times tonight” exclaimed Rzeznik, clearly referring to the previously mentioned dampening, just before jumping into “Slide”. Covering a wide range of compositions from their nearly 40-year career, only handing over singing duties a few times to bassist/cowriter Takak, Rzeznik showed no sign of vocal wear and tear.
The muppet like Takak, for shear energetic glee alone, couldn’t seem to contain his joy for being on stage again by smiling throughout the event. A new piano arrangement of “Sympathy” slowed things down for a bit, and was followed immediately after by the new number “Lost” accompanied by their mechanical “mascot” , a reel to reel nicknamed.