Hootie & the Blowfish brought its Group Therapy Tour to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night (Sept. 7), and the hit-laden, sold-out show served as a walk down memory lane. While the trek marks the band’s first set of live shows since 2008, it also celebrates the 25th anniversary of its Billboard 200 chart-topping album Cracked Rear View.
The band’s nearly two-hour set spanned its catalog, and included new song “Rollin’” off forthcoming studio album Imperfect Circle, out Nov. 1 via Universal’s Capitol Nashville imprint.
Here are five highlights from Hootie & the Blowfish’s return to Music City.
“Hold My Hand” solidified Jim “Soni” Sonefeld’s place in the band
One of the standout moments of the night was fan favorite and audience sing along “Hold My Hand.” Prefacing the performance, frontman Darius Rucker told the story of auditioning drummers in college with bandmates Mark Bryan and Dean Felber in the early stages of Hootie & the Blowfish.
“My freshman year of college, Soni stole my girlfriend and so I hated him,” Rucker told the crowd. “He was coming for an audition, but I already decided he wasn’t going to be in the band. He auditions and afterwards he goes, ‘I want to be in the band and write songs. I have a song.’ We were kind of assholes and go, ‘Alright, play it for us.’ This is the song he played for us.”
Hootie’s mesmerizing cover of “Losing My Religion”
Hootie & the Blowfish surprised the Nashville audience with several memorable covers throughout the evening, including Led Zeppelin’s “Hey Hey What Can I Do” and Kool & the Gang’s “Get Down On It,” but it was R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” that topped them all. With Rucker’s booming vocals and his bandmates’ impeccable musicianship, they left it all out on the stage. Unsurprisingly, R.E.M. had a major influence on the group.
“For every band that’s ever been a band, there’s that one band that they look up and wanted to be that band,” Rucker said. “When we started this in ’86, this band was everything to us. So here’s our tribute to the band that made us want to play music.”
Rucker’s country roots remain
While Rucker has had a successful country career since Hootie & the Blowfish went on hiatus over a decade ago, the band’s reunion didn’t mean he turned his back on the genre. It was quite the opposite as the group embraced banjo, pedal steel, fiddle and mandolin accompaniment on several of their songs. Those at Bridgestone Arena were there to see Hootie & the Blowfish back together, but some of the loudest screams came when Rucker performed his previous country hits “Alright” and his cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.” The audience has Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley to thank for the latter.
“We were on tour playing golf and he’s a huge Hootie fan. He said, ‘Hey, man, are you going to play this song on tour?’ I said, ‘Charles, man. I don’t think we’re going to play it on the Hootie tour,’” Rucker recalled. “He was like, ‘Darius, if you don’t play this song on the Hootie tour I’m going to punch you right in the throat.’ Okay, 15,000 people in here know that I will whoop Charles Kelley’s ass. But I’m going to play this song because it’d be like beating a cat. I can’t do that.”
Hootie & the Blowfish team up with Barenaked Ladies on inspiring “With a Little Help from My Friends”
Hootie’s friendship with opener Barenaked Ladies was apparent during their surprise cover of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Arm in arm, each member of Hootie & the Blowfish and Barenaked Ladies took the stage and belted the soulful ode to friendship while sharing microphones. One of the biggest sing-alongs of the night, each act proved its staying power and transformed the arena of 20,000 people into that of an intimate living room setting.
Barenaked Ladies prove to be a dynamic support band.
Barenaked Ladies may have opened the show, but its headliner status was undeniable Saturday night. Performing a slew of hits from the ’90s including the infectious “Pinch Me,” rapid-fire “One Week” and crowd favorite “If I Had $1,000,000,” the group proved to be seasoned entertainers and a dream support act.
Getting the audience amped for Hootie & the Blowfish to take the stage, Barenaked Ladies’ final song medley was a dynamic close to an already memorable set. Performing snippets of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” Travis Scott’s “Out Like a Light,” Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes,” Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” Barenaked Ladies’ energy was contagious and set the stage for what would be a high-energy evening of sing-alongs and throwback hits.
Hootie & the Blowfish wrap the U.S. leg of the Group Therapy Tour with three hometown shows on Sept 11-13 in Columbia, S.C. before heading to the U.K. and Ireland.