Rather than have his buddies over to his Los Angeles home Thursday for a Fourth of July barbecue, Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik was playing host in a mostly bare dressing room backstage at Ravinia Festival, where his band was set to perform its third show in three nights with co-headliners Matchbox Twenty.
“I’m being rude,” said Rzeznik, cutting himself off two minutes into our conversation. “Do you want something to drink?”
Rzeznik – who squeezed the interview in between a shower and the band’s meet-and-greet with fans – didn’t mind having to perform “Iris” for the millionth time while everyone else stuffed their faces with hot dogs and apple pie. The 47-year-old singer prefers working on holidays (other than Christmas and Thanksgiving) because he’d probably be sitting at home otherwise. That might explain why Goo Goo Dolls recorded its album “Live in Buffalo: July 4, 2004” on Independence Day, which was proclaimed “Goo Goo Dolls Day” in the band’s hometown of Buffalo.
“They always have fireworks there every year for us,” joked Rzeznik.
In its 25-years-plus existence, Goo Goo Dolls has outlasted nearly all of its soft rock peers and managed to avoid some, but not all, of the rock star cliches. There haven’t been constant lineup changes (the trio has only had a drummer change, in 1994) or an experimental album that turns off long-time fans (“Like Metallica’s ‘Lulu’?” Rzeznik said. “No, I’m a sucker for a good hook. I like to see how many people can remember the hook of a song”), but they did go through their hard partying phase.
It appears, however, that those days are over.
“There’s not as much partying or girls hanging around as there used to be. But that’s great because we’re all either married or about to be married,” said Rzeznik, who is sober these days and set to get married this summer. “We’ve got a lot of water and apples on the tour bus. Nobody is really longing for the glory days of 15 years ago. Everybody has a lot more responsibilities. It’s so boring when you talk about rock and responsibilities. Nobody wants to hear that.”
Asked if he still feels young, Rzeznik said it depends on the day. He feels old when he runs five miles and his knee hurts the next day or when someone reminds him that “Magnetic” — released last month and featuring the single “Rebel Beat” — is the band’s 10th studio album. But he feels young when he’s on stage and hears the audience sing the words to his songs or when the group releases a new album because “it’s always a really good feeling that there’s still a chance for your band to do something.”
It also helps that Rzeznik miraculously has just about the same rock star ‘do he sported in the 1993 music video for “We Are the Normal.” “It’s a lack of testosterone,” Rzeznik said, running his hands through his hair. “Yeah, no, it’s a pretty amazing feat. I thank God every day I still have hair.”
Rzeznik appeared relaxed and in a playful mood with a little over an hour until showtime, but he said he battles pre show nerves from time to time. As the story goes, guitarist Robby Takac was the band’s original lead singer because Rzeznik was uncomfortable around a microphone. It wasn’t until after Goo Goo Dolls’ first two albums that Rzeznik took over as the group’s frontman.
“Some nights I can stride out on stage confident and calm and then there are other nights I have to run out on stage because I’m afraid I might turn around and walk away,” Rzeznik said. “But once you’re out there, there’s nothing you can do about it. A little bit of nerves means you still care.”
It’s unclear if nerves played a role in Rzeznik forgetting the words to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl” later that night during a duet with Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas, but the two singers and the Ravinia audience laughed off the moment.
Goo Goo Dolls still have over 40 more tour stops this year, most of which include Matchbox Twenty. Rzeznik said the co-headlining tour with the “3 a.m.” and “Unwell” band has allowed both groups to play in bigger venues than they normally would and expanded their audiences.
“We know we’re not the newest band in the world. We’ve never been the biggest band. Even at the height of our career, we were never the biggest band,” Rzeznik said, modestly (Goo Goo Dolls have three songs in the top 25 on Billboard’s Top 100 Pop songs 1992-2012 chart, including the No. 1-ranked “Iris”). “But we’ve always been able to make a living, which is good. Sometimes touring feels like a giant pain in the (butt), except the time when you get to perform in front of people.”
And on the Fourth of July?
“And on the Fourth of July,” Rzeznik said. “It beats sitting in my backyard with a couple of jerks.”
Heads up: The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo will host the inaugural “Cook-Off For Cancer” Aug. 14 at Cafe Brauer. Guests at the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation benefit will vote on upscale versions of ballpark food created by notable Chicago chefs.
About this week: Joan Cusack (“School of Rock”) on Saturday will co-host the Piven Theatre Workshop Gala Saturday, which kicks off with dinner at Sunda and then the gala at Rockit Bar & Grill. Jeremy Piven (“Entourage”), son of Piven Theatre founders Byrne and Joyce Piven, is unable to attend this year due to filming of “Mr. Selfridge.” ... WWE Superstar David Otunga will host a screening of the documentary “Bounce Back: The Ronnie Fields Story,” starring Farragut Academy basketball legend Ronnie Fields, Thursday at Park Community Church in the Goose Island neighborhood.
Sightings: Ashton Kutcher (“Two and a Half Men”) and Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”) shopped Wednesday at Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora. ... Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas had dinner July 1 at Hub 51. ... John Cusack (“Hot Tub Time Machine”) had drinks July 1 in Sumi Robata Bar’s downstairs lounge, Charcoal Bar. ... Johnny Galecki (“The Big Bang Theory”) and Kelli Garner (“Pan Am”) had dinner June 29 at Sunda. ... Michael Pena (“End of Watch”) hung out at Ay Chiwowa until the early hours of Sunday. G. Love and Special Sauce frontman G. Love partied Thursday Ay Chiwowa and Rockit Bar & Grill. ... Rapper Fabolous hosted the six-city “Moet Rose Lounge” series Saturday at Drumbar in the Raffaello hotel. ... Jaleel White (“Family Matters”) had dinner Wednesday at RPM Italian before heading to Paris Club’s upstairs club, Studio Paris. He was spotted Friday at Bub City and again at Paris Club. Ross Mathews (“The Tonight Show”) had dinner June 30 at Paris Club. ... “Hardcore Pawn: Chicago” stars Randy, Wayne and Elyse Cohen watched Tuesday’s episode of the Tru TV reality show at The Squared Circle with owner and pro wrestler Lisa Marie Varon. ... The Blackhawks Bryan Bickell was spotted Tuesday at The Fifty/50 and Wednesday at Sunda. Teammate Patrick Sharp visited Siena Tavern Tuesday and Bull & Bear Wednesday. ... Former Bull Toni Kukoc dined July 1 at Earth and Ocean in Mount Prospect. ... The Dallas Mavericks’ Shawn Marion dined July 1 at Mercadito.
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