Goo Goo Dolls and Incubus “drive” in summer concert series

Elizabeth Nieto

No summer is ever complete without at least one or two truly rocking concerts. For me, the summer of 2002 provided nothing short of that. I was stoked to have the privilege of seeing Incubus, Aerosmith and the Goo Goo Dolls over the course of two months, and am proud to report that the overall performances were incredible.

The first concert I attended was Incubus with Phantom Planet on June 21 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Phantom Planet opened the show with a surprisingly impressive set, considering the band’s only real claim to fame is the hit single “California.” The band, however, has received some more publicity with songs on such soundtracks as “Orange County” and “Not Another Teen Movie.” It played for about a half hour, and then the show really took off. Incubus opened with “Circles,” from their most recent album, “Morning View.” Although most of the songs they played were from their newest album, they certainly dipped back into their hit singles from “Make Yourself,” such as “Drive” and “Stellar.” The band even went so far as to resurrect some of their harder-rock songs from their “S.C.I.E.N.C.E” album like “A Certain Shade of Green” and “New Skin.” At one point in the show, the lights turned out while the band took a breather. Yet when the lights turned on for the next song, a sofa, side table and lamp had been rolled out onto the stage, where singer Brandon Boyd and guitarist Mike Einziger were just chilling on the sofa strumming their tunes. For the last song of the encore, Incubus performed a song from “Morning View” called “Aqueous Transmission” (that bizarre sounding song with the frogs in the background). The show ended with the band members stopping one by one and slowly walking off the stage, and by the very end, there was nothing left but the sound of frogs and an empty stage.

Later in the summer, I trekked down to the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., to see Aerosmith with Kid Rock and Run DMC. Though I heard people claiming that this show would be too predictable to be enjoyable, it certainly was far from predictable. Unfortunately, I cannot report on the full performances of either Run DMC or Kid Rock because I did not get into the arena until halfway through Kid Rock’s set. I must say, he certainly is a crowd-pleaser. During his performance of “American Bad Ass,” he had all of the males shouting out “Kid” while all the females were instructed to follow with “Rock!”

After the Kid rocked the audience, Aerosmith came out and stole the show. Those who do not consider themselves “die-hard” fans might have been disappointed that Steven Tyler did not sing more of the popular hit songs. Although they did play a few staples, such as “Sweet Emotion,” “Crazy” and “Cryin’,” many of the songs were album tracks rather than singles.

What was really interesting about his show was that halfway through his performance, Aerosmith was escorted to a smaller stage out in the middle of the lawn seats. They ended their set with “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” but the encore was what really polished off the show. After a little while, Aerosmith, Kid Rock and Run DMC all came back onto the stage for a group performance of “Walk this Way” and two other songs.

Last, but certainly not least, was the Goo Goo Dolls concert on July 17, again at the PNC Bank Arts Center. Without exaggeration, this concert was positively the best show I have ever seen. The performance they presented was just phenomenal. Vanessa Carlton opened the show with two songs of her singing solo and playing the piano. After that, the rest of her band joined in. Although Carlton is a very talented musician, her solo would have been more appropriate at something like Lilith Fair.

Third Eye Blind played after Carlton’s set and they set the mood for the rest of the show. They covered all of their popular songs like “Jumper,” “Semi-Charmed Life,” and “How’s It Going to Be,” but the majority of the show consisted of new songs that will be released on their upcoming album, “Crystal Baller” (look for it in October). Similar to Steven Tyler’s trek into the lawn, lead singer Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind ventured midway through the venue and sang several songs.

The Goo Goo Dolls came out on stage and began with “Big Machine,” the first song on their most recent release, “Gutterflower.” They played songs from their new album like “Here is Gone” and “Sympathy,” a few classics like “Slide,” “Black Balloon,” and “Broadway,” and even reverted back to their earlier days with “Name.” Their performances of “Iris” and “Sympathy” simply stole the show. Singer Johnny Rzeznik interacted with members of the audience, and held out his microphone during many of the songs for the audience to sing along with. For the finale, the Dolls had a backdrop similar to the cover of their new album, and played a blast from the past, as well as “American Girl,” in which Vanessa Carlton joined them.

From Incubus to Aerosmith to Goo Goo Dolls, this was clearly a summer of unbeatable concerts.