Darius Rucker was not the first voice fans heard as their decades long wait for a Hootie & the Blowfish concert in Columbia came to an end Wednesday night.
The sellout crowd heard a recording of actor Samuel L. Jackson introduce the band as the curtain dropped at Colonial Life Arena. Then Rucker’s familiar voice thrilled the crowd, as he and band mates Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, and Jim ‘Soni’ Sonefeld tore through a 20-plus song set that lasted about two hours.
“Columbia, we’re home!” Rucker said after the band opened the show with “Hannah Jane,” the first song off the 1994 record “Cracked Rear View,” which has gone platinum 20-plus times and is one of the best-selling albums of all time.
During Wednesday’s concert, Hootie & the Blowfish played almost every song off the album celebrating a silver anniversary that was a motivating factor for the reunion tour.
But the group that formed when the members were students at the University of South Carolina in the 1980s didn’t make it seem like it was leaning too heavily on “Cracked Rear View.”
It blended in songs from other albums, lots of covers, a few of Rucker’s country music hits, and two new songs from Hootie’s forthcoming record “Imperfect Circle,” which will be released on Nov. 1.
Not too bad for a band that went on hiatus in 2008.
While there were no signs of rust, likely thanks to 40-plus dates on the “Group Therapy Tour” prior to Wednesday’s show, it was obvious how much the band enjoyed performing.
But Hootie & the Blowfish have always been know for having fun, dating to 1980 when the then-college band was playing gigs at frat houses and bars in Five Points.
And they were teeming with energy Wednesday.
“Oh my God Columbia! It feels so good to play here,” Bryan said near the top of the concert that saw the group’s lead guitarist perform a series of solos and possibly more leaps in the air, all of which didn’t reveal that he’s 52 years old. “We haven’t played a ticketed show here in 18 years.”
Hootie made up for lost time with its feel good melodies mixed with rocking guitar riffs and, of course, Rucker’s powerful vocals.
The group took advantage of the breaks between songs to share stories. Many were from their days at USC.
Wearing a black USC cap and cowboy boots, Rucker told a self-deprecating story about how he didn’t want Sonefeld to originally join the band. Rucker explained a girl he pined for was so infatuated with the drummer, she wrote “I love Soni,” at USC’s volleyball facility.
But Rucker was won over after Sonefeld’s audition, especially when he played the group a song he wrote. It was “Hold My Hand.”
The band played it at the show, along with all of their other mega hits like “Let Her Cry,” “Only Wanna Be With You,” and “Time” among others.
The stage show also captivated fans. Behind the band was a large monitor with tremendous clarity that showed a wide range of vivid images. They included Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium (original home of the Grand Ole Opry), fireflies, highways and even Waffle House, along with archival photos of the band over the years and hand-scrawled posters promoting their performances in Columbia more than 30 years ago.
Before calling it a night, the group brought back the opening act Barenaked Ladies to the stage. They performed together before Hootie’s encore, showing the Canadian rockers weren’t a run of the mill opener.
Playing for close to an hour, Barenaked Ladies also had the audience singing along and closed their performance with unique but well-executed medley, mixing songs by Lady Gaga, Led Zeppelin, Little Nas X and Queen among others.
It foreshadowed a medley from Hootie, and an encore that ended with reprise of one of their biggest hits sandwiched around an R&B tune from the 70s.
Ticket holders have the chance to see Hootie & the Blowfish again at sold-out shows Thursday and Friday. There’s also a chance of running in to the band again Saturday, as they watch their beloved USC football team take on No. 2 Alabama at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We’re here to get everybody fired up so the Gamecocks beat Alabama,” Bryan said.
Hootie & the Blowfish made Wednesday’s crowd so happy that the Gamecocks could have a fighting chance.
Below is the set list from Hootie & the Blowfish’s Wednesday show at Colonial Life Arena. While there are no guarantees the songs will remain the same for the remaining nights the band plays in Columbia, stop reading now if you do not want any potential surprises revealed.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
▪ “Hannah Jane”
▪ “State Your Peace”
▪ “I Go Blind”
▪ “Fine Line” (Radney Foster cover)
▪ “Not Even the Trees”
▪ “Hold My Hand”
▪ “Losing My Religion” (R.E.M. cover)
▪ “I Will Wait”
▪ “Let Her Cry”
▪ “Hey, Hey What Can I Do” (Led Zeppelin cover)
▪ “Miss California”
▪ “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”
▪ “Desert Mountain Showdown”
▪ “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love With You” (Tom Waits cover)
▪ “Alright” (Darius Rucker song)
▪ “Running from an Angel”
▪ “Wagon Wheel” (Darius Rucker cover of Old Crow Medicine Show song)
▪ “Old Man and Me (When I Get To Heaven)/Fight the Power/Freaks of the Industry/Shining Star”
▪ “With a Little Help From My Friends” with Barenaked Ladies (Cover of Joe Cocker rendition of The Beatles song)
▪ “Go and Tell Him (Soup Song)”
▪ “Only Wanna Be With You”
▪ ”Get Down on It”
▪ “Only Wanna Be With You” (Reprise)