How do you review a Hootie and The Blowfish show? It’s not an easy task. Nothing I say will ever give it true justice. In some ways most of it is a blur as it was THAT good and I was completely engrossed in the entire set. We, The UK have waited a very long time to have Hootie back to play for us. We of course have been treated with Darius Rucker shows across the years which have always been sensational but having the band back together playing the Hootie tracks was something we had craved for a long time.
The O2 Academy in Bristol was packed. So much so in fact that after our interview with the band there was literally no where to see. Three floors of enthusiastic Hootie fans, many in Hootie t-shirts and others in other nineties bands. I thought I was a big fan, but these fans were dedicated and it showed throughout the evening. Some of my favourite parts of the show was watching the fans as well as the band. I was fixated on three guys singing so passionately with their eyes closed and hands in the air, leaning on each other that it made me smile.
When the lights went out and the intro began with the Bible verse, Ezekiel 25:17, (used and said by Samuel L Jackson in the film “Pulp Fiction”) I couldn’t hear it all amongst the cheers but upon research it seems some words were changed to reference the band. (According to News Observer)
Entering the stage, the band were met by the loudest cheer that I have heard in such a long time. The roaring crowd felt so emotional that I had butterflies. Starting with Hannah Jane (which isn’t uncommon for the band and a favourite for me with sharing the same first name) it was like the band had never had a hiatus. Back together so naturally, they really did take us back twenty odd years and I felt like I was that young Rock/Indie and Grunge fan I was all those years ago. For us country fans, this wasn’t even close to being a Darius show. He moulded back into his Hootie ways and did not make the show all about him. I found myself paying attention to every band member on stage and forgot in that moment that I was seeing the same guy sing that I have seen sing multiple times as a solo artist. Even when they performed Darius’ solo stuff such as Alright and his cover of Wagon Wheel, it still felt Hootie. It was impressive to see the amount of fans that knew the solo stuff though, and I did laugh happily at the passion of the audience during those songs.
Hold My Hand came with a great story that Darius says he loves telling but Soni (drummer) hates it. Catching what I could of it, Darius states about auditioning a new drummer and not wanting Soni as he used to “hate” him (he says jokingly) something about a girl at college who Darius was friends with and he marched all across campus as she wanted to show him something and it was (I think) a photo of her on the beach with the words in the sand “I Love Soni” written in the background. “Man I hate that Long haired mother boy” Darius laughed as did the crowd, especially with Soni being bald now. Of course, he ended the so-called hate and Soni joined the band. During the audition process, Darius explains how Soni wanted to perform original material and then played Hold My Hand which of course went on the be one of their biggest and most loved songs. I have seen Hold My Hand live at every Darius show I have been to but my god seeing it played by Hootie and The Blowfish as a whole band was truly something else, a whole different level. I was in my happy place in that moment, as were most of, if not all of the audience. The way the song was sung back, you could tell that people had waited years for this moment. The arms in the air during the “I wanna love you the best that The best that I can” was powerful.
The bands new album Imperfect Circle is out November 1st and thankfully we were treated with a few of these songs. First up was the already released Rollin‘ which is such a catchy tune and people already knew all the words. The song is so much fun and will be a favourite for both Hootie and Darius fans. Another nice back to the past moment was with the R.E.M cover of Losing My Religion and of course everyone in the audience knew the words, heck it was our era.
When I asked the band earlier that if years down the line they have released many more albums, had many more hits, which song will never leave the set list, the answer was immediately Let Her Cry. So when this song was performed you could see that it meant a lot to the band. A song that Darius cites as his first country song, the moment was stunning. How could you not love a rock ballad such as this?
Other covers played were Tom Waits I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You and Led Zepplin’s Hey Hey What Can I Do? A song that Darius says is the only Zepplin song he can sing.
Another new song from Imperfect Circle played was Miss California which wasn’t originally on the set list but speaking of it during our interview Darius said “We may play it tonight, in fact let’s play it tonight”. I knew the song was coming when he had a little chat with the band on stage as to change the set list in order to fit it in. The new songs are great! The album is worth pre ordering folks.
Another much loved song from Cracked Rear View was Time. I shan’t forget hearing that live. What a memory! What a voice Darius has and collectively as a band how beautifully they play this song. I think this goes back on my playlist forever.
During the cover of Old Crow Medicine’s Wagon Wheel, (a song that Darius said “never put a song on your album that you don’t want to play every night“) a man collapsed half way through and Darius stopped the show so he could be aided. Not many would do this and much respect for Darius and the band stopping the show till he was ok.
Last before encore was Old Man & Me/Fight The Power/Freaks Of The Industry/Shining Star/Old Man & Me
The crowd fought the power.
Leaving stage and returning to an unbelievably eager crowd, Darius sang Goodbye alone which was sensational, absolutely stunning. Sadly I had to leave due to transport and missed, (yes you know what I am going to say), missed I Only Wanna Be With You and more. If I didn’t have a child to get home to I would have risked being out all night.
My goodness, what a show. I referred to Darius Rucker at The Royal Albert Hall as The Greatest Showman but this was The Greatest Showmen. This show made me forget everything crappy in life and made me back to the teenager I was and brought back feelings I forgot I ever had. How can a band make you feel so many great feelings all at once? Hootie and The Blowfish are a timeless act who will never get old, the band were as young as they ever were and their music delivered on every level. They way the instruments were played to such perfection. When you love music, you LOVE music and Hootie are a band that fill your soul. I will never forget this night, I don’t think anyone will.
Plenty more shows to go to. I am tempted to go London…..
Pre – Order Imperfect Circle here