When Darius Rucker announced that Hootie & the Blowfish would be playing a reunion concert at Atlanta’s SunTrust Park, he billed it as “one night only.”
It turns out that if it were up to Rucker, the concert might not have happened at all.
It wasn’t that the group’s front-man-turned-country-music star had anything against his former bandmates. In fact, Hootie & the Blowfish will play two more shows on Aug. 10 and 11.
He just had doubts about their ability to play a stadium like the home of baseball’s Atlanta Braves as the lead-in to country megastar Jason Aldean. The group has played together on stage sparingly since they went on hiatus in the early 2000s.
“They texted me, ‘Hey, man, we want you guys to play Atlanta,’ and I’m like, you know, ‘I don’t know if we’re ready to go play a stadium (laughs), you know?” Rucker let slip in an interview prior to Saturday’s concert, WKXA.com reported. “ ’We play but I don’t know think we’re ready to play a stadium.’ “
Rucker ultimately relented, doing it for Aldean, who wanted to perform a special show in his native Georgia. The lineup also included performances from North Carolina native Luke Combs and Lauren Alaina.
“We can still play. We’re old men, but we can play,” Rucker said, according to WKXA.com.
Hootie & the Blowfish did play, for more than an hour, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reported that Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Jim Sonefeld “sounded remarkably taut for an outfit that doesn’t perform regularly.”
The set featured songs from Hootie & the Blowfish’s 1994 album “Cracked Rear View” — which went platinum 16 times and was one of the fastest-selling debut albums of all time — playing hits “Hold My Hand,” “Only Wanna Be with You,” “Let Her Cry” and “Time,” per setlist.fm.com.
But it was an eclectic mix that also featured some of Rucker’s solo country hits like “Alright,” in addition to cover’s of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” Led Zeppelin’s “Hey Hey What Can I Do” and Kool & the Gang’s “Get Down On It,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
As much as Hootie & the Blowfish fans were delighted by the reunion, they also enjoyed something extra special at the show: A unique backdrop on a massive video monitor that brought a real-life Waffle House on to the stage.
For as much as fans raved on social media about seeing the group, they also cheered the Waffle House video effect that showed rain running down windows and waitresses serving the food that makes the chain restaurant a wildly-popular Southern staple.
At one point, the iconic lettering on the Waffle House marquee changed to say “Hootie & the Blowfish” in the same font. The base drum had the same lettering emblazoned on a waffle.
For those who missed the show, there will be another chance to see Hootie & the Blowfish this year. The band, which formed while they were students at the University of South Carolina, will play in their home state in August.
The shows will be just outside of Charleston, at Volvo Car Stadium on Daniel Island. Tickets are on sale on Ticketmaster and range from $35 for upper general admission, $50 for 200-level seating and $60 for floor and box-level tickets.
But don’t expect to see a larger Hootie & the Blowfish tour anytime soon. Rucker has said in the past he and Sonefeld, Felber and Bryan have no plans to mount a full-scale reunion.
“You know, life’s going pretty good for everybody right now, so we’re not really dying to get back together and do a tour or anything like that. But, you know, someday,” Rucker said to abcnews.go.com in 2017.
A three-time Grammy winner, Rucker launched an extensive summer tour with Lady Antebellum July 19, working in breaks for the Hootie & the Blowfish shows. The tour will come to the Carolinas on Oct. 4 and 5, when Rucker and Lady Antebellum will play Raleigh and Charlotte respectively.
Here’s what some fans said about the first reunion show of the summer in Atlanta: