Robby Takac is looking forward to New Year's Eve.
His parents are flying in from Buffalo, N.Y., and some of his family from Wisconsin are coming down to celebrate. They'll all ring in the new year with him at Chicago's House of Blues — along with a few hundred lucky fans and half of the city watching him on TV. Because Takac plays bass and sings with the Goo Goo Dolls, and they're headlining one of the city's most visible New Year's Eve shows.
"It's going to be a blast," he promises. "I really dig Chicago — Chicago was the first place we could go as a band outside of Buffalo where people would fill rooms to see us play. The first live taping we ever did was at Metro with JBTV."
The Goo Goo Dolls slogged through rock's small-club tour trenches for several years before breaking big with the Top 5 hit "Name" in 1995. They followed that up in 1998 with ubiquitous hits from "Dizzy Up the Girl," including "Iris" and "Slide." Currently, lead singer John Rzeznik has a solo hit with "I'm Still Here," riding the charts from the Disney movie "Treasure Planet." The band's latest album, "Gutterflower," is springloaded with pounding rock tracks that shimmer with heart and heat. Rzeznik's "Big Machine" and "What a Scene" and Takac's "You Never Know" stand as three of the band's catchiest songs to date.
"Gutterflower" hasn't had the hit singles of its predecessor, but it has gone gold, and has had the group out on the road for much of the year; New Year's Eve will mark their fourth stint through Chicago in 2002.
"If you've gotta keep going back to a place, it might as well be Chicago," Takac says with a laugh.
The band has been playing smaller clubs lately, after hitting the outdoor stadiums in the summer (they played Tweeter Center in August). Takac extols the intimacy of clubs like House of Blues.
"You're going to get a great show from us if we play in an ampitheater because we love to play," he says, "but when you're in a smaller room it turns into something a little more special – there's more direct interaction with the fans; they're all over – on the sides of you, looking up at you …"
While the hit records have put pressure on the band, Takac says the Goos haven't let the business tear them apart, as it has so many acts.
"The clubhouse feel of the 'all-for-one' dynamic is tested an awful lot when you start gaining notoriety," he says.
"The group is really put to a test. This is something we've been dealing with for six or seven years. But there are a few things we try to hold on to. Number one, we're doing what we want. We're successful, we go out and we work. That's what my father did and John's father did — they worked for a living. We do that."
The second thing the band has focused on, he says, is staying true to its own vision and not bowing to the pressures of record companies and critics.
"You get to that point where you have to say, 'Here's the game the way we play it.' That's a blessing that most bands really don't ever receive — we go out and make the records we want to make."
Takac says despite the pressures to follow up their hits with more hits, the band has instead focused on writing good songs.
"We just write and write and write."
Ultimately, the bulk of a Goo Goo Dolls album is made up of Rzeznik songs, as the main lead singer, but Takac performs his share.
So where will the Goo Goo Dolls go in the new year? Back to Chicago.
The band joins up with Bon Jovi early next year for a 10-week tour that brings them back our way in March. Takac says the band thought the dual tour would give "Gutterflower" some of the needed exposure that it hasn't gotten on radio.
"I wish it was selling some more. But that's why we're going out with Bon Jovi. If you put every little bit of your being into being in the band, it gets to be too much. You need to keep (the band) in proper perspective in your lifescope."
Wise advice, really, for any situation.
The Goo Goo Dolls will play with Luce and Chicago's Alice Peacock at the House of Blues Dec. 31. Portions of the show will be broadcast on Fox TV.
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