Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry, & Plain White T’s kick off summer of rock at Jones Beach, NY 6-14-14

A signature event of a Long Island, New York summer over the past decade has been the Goo Goo Dolls coming to Nikon at Jones Beach Theater.  While their visit has always been later in the summer and with different line-ups to host the bill, in 2014 the Buffalo natives came to the beach on Saturday June 14th.  With an excellent supporting bill of Plain White T’s and Daughtry, fans filled the parking lot early; tailgating, barbecuing, and taking in the summer breeze before the evening of music.

Starting the night off on the right foot was Chicago, IL pop rock band Plain White T’s.  Spending their early years as part of the underground Chicago punk scene, the band rose to fame in 2006 with their gold selling album Every Second Counts.  Originally a three-piece act, these days the band consists of  founder Tom Higgenson (lead vocals, guitar) and Dave Tirio (guitar, vocals), along with Tim Lopez (lead guitar, lead vocals), Mike Retondo (bass, vocals), and De’Mar Hamilton (drums, vocals).  With the sun still relatively bright, Plain White T’s took the stage as fans waited their performance.

Playing a nice mix of pop tingling rock tunes, the band sounded bright from the moment they began.  Higgenson showed a sincere emotion as he strummed his acoustic guitar and sang lead on most tracks.  Personable Higgenson introduced the band and spoke to the audience in between songs.  He went on to introduce a song and stated it was about an ex-girlfriend, that song was radio hit “1234”.  With everyone on their feet dancing and singing, Plain White T’s harmonized beautifully on the song. Next to follow was a new track released in 2013 titled “Should’ve Gone to Bed”.  Keeping the happy vibe flowing, Higgenson introduced the next track as about a girl he was dating from NYC which happened to be the band’s signature hit “Hey There Delilah”.  Heartfelt and honest sounding, it is easy to see why the song has sustained such popularity over the years and everyone sang along the last portion of the song enthusiastically.  Higgenson confessed to the audience he lived on Long Island for a two month period recording an album which had many smiling.  Their set closed out with Lopez on lead vocals and strumming a ukulele for “Rhythm of Love”.  The band’s newest album American Nights is slated for a 2014 release, so keep your eyes open for it.

Taking a brief intermission for refreshments, everyone soon returned to their seats, packing out the amphitheater and awaiting Daughtry.  Led by singer/songwriter Chris Daughtry, his rise to commercial success began back in 2005 when he finished fourth on season five of American Idol.  A year later, forming his own band, their debut album simply titled Daughtry (2006) went multi-platinum, launching Daughtry into rock super-stardom at a rapid pace.  Considered to most as one of the first legitimate contestants to ever be featured on American Idol, Daughtry has surpassed the title as a legitimate talented musician.   After releasing their fourth studio album, Baptized, in 2013 and relentless touring, Daughtry are back to Jones Beach a year later to rock-n-roll.

With each member walking on the stage one by one, the audience were on their feet and they kicked things off with “Baptized”.  Full of energy and intensity Daughtry sang inspired as they went into hit tracks “Feels Like Tonight” and “Over You”.  With so much excitement in the air, Daughtry continued to exhibit passion in his voice as he sang newer track “Traitor”.  Smiling, he told the audience that Jones Beach is one of the band’s favorite venues to perform at, and with the cool breeze coming off the ocean and sun-setting, it is easy to see why.  With a picturesque  setting, the band went into another hit and fan-favorite “It’s Not Over”.  Daughtry looked to entice the crowd to participate more in the performance and they responded with supportive cheers.  It was at this point in the set the band performed more of their newer material including “Wild Heart” and newest single “Battleships”.

More than just a one man band, it is important to point out the significance of  guitarists Josh Steely and Brian Craddock, bassist Josh Paul, keyboardist Elvio Fernandes, and drummer Jamal Moore.  The band played as a cohesive unit with a warm thick rock sound to match Daughtry’s affectionate singing.   With that, they kept the momentum following on the hit “Home” and “September”.  During the performance of the latter track there was a sense of life reflection as images passed on large screens behind the band and Daughtry’s facial expressions told a vivid story.  Thanking the audience and bidding farewell, the band exited from the stage, but after the loudest applauding of the evening they came right back out.  Humbled by the ovation, Daughtry said that is why they love playing Jones Beach.  Opening the encore was “Waiting for Superman” and “What About Now”.  Providing for a rather memorable experience for some lucky fans, VIP guests were invited from stage left onto the stage to sing along the final song with the band on the rocking anthem “Long Live Rock & Roll”.  This was a performance that showed why Daughtry has become the musical force they are and there is no denying their talent for composing thoughtful rock-n-roll.

With night finally setting in and the breeze picking up, Jones Beach Theater was packed to the rafters with fans of all ages.  Most returning after another stellar performance by Goo Goo Dolls last summer with Matchbox Twenty, many wondered what would the band have in store for them this year.   With clamoring noising coming from the darkness in front of the stage, John Rzeznik (vocals/guitar) and Robby Takac (bass/vocals) came out with their talented supporting band of Brad Fernquist (guitar, mandolin), Korel Tunador (keyboards, guitar), and Craig McIntyre (drummer).  Igniting the fire with their heavier rock side, the band went right into “Lazy Eye” and “Dizzy”.  Showing they can still rock with the best of them, this was the perfect opening, laying the groundwork for a set that would cover the band’s three decade plus career.  In tune with their audience, they followed with mega hit “Slide”.  Perhaps one of the band’s most accessible tune to the mainstream audience, everyone was on their feet singing, dancing, and having a wonderful time.

Rzeznik’s voice did not waver at any point in the set as he sang passionately as they went into another few rock tracks including “Big Machine” and the feel good track “Rebel Beat”.  It was this driving mix of tracks which kept this audience on their feet the entire set.  Moving onto new song “When the World Breaks Your Heart”, immediately after it was Takac’s turn to take lead on “Already There” and newer song “Bringing on the Light”.  A vastly different, but strong and unique sounding singer, Takac gave a punk-rock flare that is appreciated by long-time fans which understand the history of the band.  Rzeznik showed off some underrated guitar skills during the track which also warmed the heart of rockers in the crowd.

Having already performed an extremely balanced set, Rzeznik, in his charismatic style, spoke to the audience about the next track and explained how special it was to him; stating he wrote it for his then girlfriend which is now his wife.  That is when he led into the lyrically beautiful “Come to Me”.  Capturing the hearts of couples in the audience, the song sounded magnificent with the moonlight glimmer off the bay in the backdrop.  Keeping the hits coming, “Black Balloon” with the signature release of black balloons floating in the audience, was followed by “Stay With You”, and “Here Is Gone”.  Mixing in new gem “Caught in the Storm” with “Feel the Silence”, Rzeznik then played the band’s first big hit that everyone knows in “Name”.  Amazing to think a band which started as a garage punk outfit from upstate New York would one day become one of the biggest alternative rock acts in the world and “Name” started it all.

Bringing Takac back to center stage was another two song rock assault of “January Friend” and the unforgettable “Another Second Time Around”.  Takac, as animated as ever, really rocked the songs fittingly and it is pleasant to see his youthful enthusiasm on stage.  Taking everyone down from the high was the touching and thought-provoking song “Better Days”.  One of Rzeznik’s most engaging songs of all-time, he graciously dedicated it to the audience.  As the set winded down, “Slow It Down” followed up with hits “Broadway” and the sing-along favorite “Iris”.  What seemed to be the end of evening was merely a moment for the audience to catch their breath, or just scream their lungs out begging for more.  Granting their wish, Goo Goo Dolls appeared on the stage for a relaxing and fresh encore of “Sympathy” and “Let Love In”.

There are few frontman who capture the attention of an audience like Rzeznik. With a fun personality and incredible song-writing all together, that is one of the reasons Goo Goo Dolls remain the alternative rock leaders they have been for years.   The musical partnership Rzeznik and Takac share is exceptional for modern music.  As usual, the band performed a strong set of all their classics with a few added surprises to keep fans on their toes.  This was unquestionably a great way to kick off the summer, and everyone should make the trip out to see Goo Goo Dolls as they tour all summer long.

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