Hootie And The Blowfish @Leeds O2 Academy, October 7 2019

Hootie and the Blowfish last graced the shores of the UK 21 years ago and things were very different back then.

Everybody had a Furby, Buffy the Vampire Slayer mania was full steam ahead, Google was founded, all the ladies had the ‘Rachel’ haircut and Hootie drummer Jim ‘Soni’ Sonefeld had hair and fully working eyesight at the time (his words, not mine).

One more thing. Hootie were starting to plummet down the wrong side of the mountain of success. After selling 10 million copies of Cracked Rear View, the backlash was inevitable and slowly but surely the album sales dropped and venues only started to fill half full.

It’s all in the timing though and Hootie have embarked on what has become the hottest ticket of 2019 – their return to the public view with the Group Therapy tour.

The band will be the first to admit that they couldn’t have done this without Darius Rucker’s highly successful country career and Rucker is on record as saying he’s only Moonlighting with Hootie for a year. The band want to give back to the hardcore fans who used to plan their holidays around the tour dates and the ticket sales show they have hit the nail on the head.

The fashion trends might have changed since the 90s but the faces have not. The original fans have been lapping it up and bringing their families along for the ride. This was certainly evident in Leeds, where several generations were packed together in groups – in fact the venue as a whole was as packed as I’ve ever seen it!

The band were most certainly appreciative and the mood onstage was like that of a family reunion. After hitting 50 dates so far this year, they were very well rehearsed and with a 25-song setlist, Hootie kept everyone happy. 

Yes, the setlist was Cracked Rear View heavy (it was always going to be) and there were a few covers – Ruckers’ Alright and Wagon Wheel, a breathtaking version of Tom Waites’ I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love With You and an amazing rendition of Hey Hey What Can I Do

But we got some deeper cuts as well – Not Even The Trees, Sad Caper and Go And Tell Him popping up in the encores – yes!! The icing on the cake was how well the new songs sat slap bang in the middle of that setlist. Miss California and Lonely On A Saturday Night have got me salivating for the new album.

Looking back, Rucker says he’s always felt bad for the band ‘just disappearing’ in 2008 but hopefully the reaction to Imperfect Circle will pay the band back for their trek this summer. If it’s anything like the reconnection of band and fan base in Leeds, we’re in for something extra special to end 2019 with.

Words And Pictures By John Burrows