It might help to think of this summer package tour as a sandwich. Buffalo New York's Goo Goo Dolls is pretty much the white bread. Not exactly Wonder Bread, but something with a bit of taste. Like sourdough. The trio (touring with a keyboardist and second guitarist) slogged it out in its early days as a post-Replacements, punk-inspired bar band. It took a while, but when the band had a light-rock hit with "Name," suddenly it was a sensitive and introspective person's rock group. With its latest, Dizzy Up the Girl, the band continues to mine tough-tender lyrics and hits the mark on occasion. The sound's just not all that diverse.
The cheese of this tour comes courtesy of Sugar Ray, a Southern California band which inexplicably rode the success of last summer's "Fly" into what looks like a career of dumb, post-frat-boy alternarock, as this summer's hit "Every Morning" proves. Perhaps it's singer Mark McGrath's Cosmo cover-boy looks, because it sure isn't the music. This is a band that titled its latest record 14:59 in reference to its 15 minutes of fame on the wane. My watch stopped 14 minutes ago.
For the meat, there's Austin's Fastball, whose one hit, "The Way," is probably the worst song on All the Pain Money Can Buy. Smart and well-versed in pop songwriting, Fastball is a workhorse, mainstream flavor. Like turkey. Heavy on the muscle-building protein and very satisfying.
What little spice there is on this bill comes from Frogpond, a little postgrunge, female-led trio, which will perform on a second stage. And like Tabasco sauce, this band is there if you need it.
Overall, this tour isn't a full meal. But it should tide you over until a Bruce Springsteen concert.
The Goo Goo Dolls, Sugar Ray, Fastball and Frogpond perform Saturday, September 4, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18.50 and $28.50. Call (713)629-3700.