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The Goo Goo Dolls

In their 20th year as a band, the Goo Goo Dolls are riding an arc that few bands of their vintage could dream of. At one time considered a poor man’s Replacements, the group once known as the Sex Maggots (!) have developed into a heart-on-sleeve pop-rock act, a long way from the raggedy punk-rockers who sang “Don’t Beat My Ass (With a Baseball Bat)” on their 1987 debut. And the working-class Buffalo natives were responsible for one of the most inescapable ballads of the late ’90s: the behemoth “Iris,” which spent a record 18 weeks atop the Billboard airplay chart in 1998. Surely, as one of the most successful bands of the last decade, they must have some outrageous, even unprintable, stories about their down time, right?

“We had a day off,” says bassist-vocalist Robby Takac via telephone from the Big Apple, “so we came to New York and we all slept all day.” So much for coke and hookers.

They must need the sleep, now that the Goo machine is back in high gear. Their just-released eighth album, Let Love In (not to be confused with the identically titled Nick Cave album), has already produced a hit on Top 40 radio (“Stay With You”) and, judging by its ear-friendly sound, is poised to spawn several more. It’s a very polished, even release, the product of a few years of hard work—and some familiar surroundings.

For the preproduction phase of Let Love In, the Goos chose to ditch Los Angeles in favor of a return to Buffalo (“a city that’s much, much easier to understand” than L.A.), where they set up shop in an old Masonic hall. The temporary relocation allowed them to be surrounded by family and friends—and, Takac explains, not by unsavory industry types.

“We decided that being in that atmosphere a lot of people who had known us for maybe a year or two, who were [only] directly concerned with the next six weeks of our lives—we just didn’t feel like that was a great place to be making decisions based on something that we’re going to be representing for the rest of our lives.”

Once the songs were all but finished, the Goos returned to the Botox city, where they teamed with über-producer Glen Ballard. “We had been working with [producer] Rob Cavallo for almost 10 years,” he continues, “and we felt like we wanted to do something different process-wise. . . . [Ballard’s] whole vibe is very freeing: We’re all here doing something that’s very important, and if you don’t try everything then you haven’t tried everything. It was a really advantageous way of going about things for us.”

The band currently are on a co-headlining concert tour with perennial draw Counting Crows. It’s “a nice, varied day of music,” says Takac. “People who aren’t necessarily huge Goo Goo Dolls fans or vice versa, it’s nice for them to be able to sit and watch a show full of songs they know.”

In exchange for the familiar sounds, the band, in conjunction with USA Harvest, will be collecting canned goods for the hungry. So bring a can of soup to the show; it’ll probably be the last time SPAC lets you bring your own food through the gates.

The Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows will perform at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Saratoga Spa State Park, Route 9, Saratoga Springs) this Monday (Aug. 7) at 7 PM. Pavilion tickets are $59.50 and $49.50, lawn tickets are $20. To purchase tickets, call the SPAC box office at 587-3330.

—John Brodeur

The Philadelphia Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra season at SPAC is in full swing; if you haven’t attended yet, this is a fine week to do so. The programs are a pleasing mix of styles and composers, and every night is promising.

Tonight (Thursday), maestro Charles Dutoit will dip into the French repertory with works by Debussy and Saint-Saëns, while guest pianist Yefim Bronfman will detour the evening into Deutschland with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5.

Friday is the ever-popular Tchaikovsky night; Saturday, the fabulous Philadelphians will perform works by Ravel and SPAC composer-in-residence Bright Sheng. Also, Andre Watts will be featured on Rachmaninoff’s lush Piano Concerto No. 2.

Finally, on Wednesday, Yo-Yo Ma (not to be confused with Tommy Smothers’ Yo-Yo Man) will bring the cello to a program featuring music from Italy (Rossini), Russia (Shostakovich) and what used to be called the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Dvorák).

The Philadelphia Orchestra will perform tonight (Thursday, Aug. 3) through Saturday (Aug. 5), and Wednesday (Aug. 9), at 7:30 PM at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs). Tickets for shows on Aug. 3-5 are $63-$30, $18 lawn; the Aug. 9 show is $73.50-$37, $23 lawn. For reservations and information, call 587-3330.

Martha Mitchell Calling

Martha Mitchell wouldn’t shut up. While this was bad for her husband John, and his boss, President Richard M. Nixon, it was quite wonderful for these United States of America. Oddly, Mitchell’s role in exposing the Watergate scandal has faded from popular memory. Jodi Rothe’s new play Martha Mitchell Calling, which is making its world premiere at Shakespeare & Company, addresses this historical oversight with wit and drama: “The play revisits the complex, controversial woman who blew the whistle, blew up her marriage, helped bring down a presidency—and paid dearly for her candor.” Annette Miller (pictured) is Martha Mitchell.

On a shared bill with Martha Mitchell Calling is the Berkshires debut of No Background Music. Normi Noël’s powerful, wrenching one-woman show draws upon the Vietnam War experiences of U.S. Army nurse Penny Rock.

Martha Mitchell Calling and No Background Music will be presented at Shakespeare & Company (Founders Theatre, 70 Kemble St., Lenox, Mass.) through Sept. 2. Tickets are $54-$15. For show times, call the box office at (413) 637-3353 or visit www.shakespeare.org.


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