Twenty years into their career, the Goo Goo Dolls have perfected their ability to make any song sound like a mushy love ballad. This sappiness is amplified by the unwavering intensity of lead singer Johnny Rzeznik's velvety croon and his unbearably cheesy lyrics. From his upbeat decree of "You're the only one I ever believed in" on the title track to his murmur of "Have you forgotten how we used to dream / Let me remind you" ("Become"), his lyrics could be the reference text for Seduction Cliches 101.
The Buffalo group's choice to cover Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit" shows how much it has changed: The soft-rock anthem is a far cry from the group's early influences of the Rolling Stones and the Ramones, and the Goos do little to give the sappy lyrics and bright guitars an edge.
Two songs sung by raspy-voiced bassist Robby Takac -- the group's original lead singer -- give the Goos a little growl, but Takac's snarl is incongruous with the group's otherwise bland, radio-friendly sound.
By contrast, the Counting Crows don't water down their angsty rock on "New Amsterdam," a compilation of three nights' live recordings, despite the songs' slow, mellow bent. The Crows alter the melodies and arrangements on such older hits as "Rain King" and "Hanginaround" to add a subtle energy, and the crisp, clear recording sounds more like a studio compilation than a mere bootleg.
-- Catherine P. Lewis
.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 25 August 2006, Page WE06