Hootie & The Blowfish performing their Group Therapy Tour at The O2 Academy Birmingham on Wednesday 16th October 2019

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Hootie & The Blowfish were back in the Midlands last night for the first time in nearly two decades and it was the O2 Academy in Birmingham that put out the welcome mat.

Formed when they were students at the University of South Carolina in 1986, five studio albums later, they decided to take a hiatus in 2008. And it was the twenty fifth anniversary of their debut album, Cracked Rear View, which went twenty one times platinum and is one of the best selling albums of all times, that according to the band members was the excuse for this reunion tour.

Introduced by a voice over of Samuel L. Jackson paraphrasing his famous Ezekiel 25:17 monologue from Pulp Fiction, vocalist Darius Rucker, lead guitarist Mark Bryan, bassist Dean Felber and drummer Jim Sonefeld took to the stage to a true Brummie welcome.

Performing eight songs from the eleven track album, they opened with Hannah Jane. They also treated the crowd with songs from their other albums, some covers and two new songs; the breezy Rollin’ and the chiming Miss California from their latest album, Imperfect Circle, incidentally their first since 2005 and which is due for release early next month.

Delivering the likes of the suitably soaring Hold My Hand, the reflective jangle of Time and a jaw droppingly brilliant Goodbye, Rucker showed that his distinctive voice is as full and robust as it was half his lifetime ago and for the whole of the set he never seemed to stop smiling.

Let Her Cry was belted out with power and emotion and State Your Peace was buoyed by the pounding drums of Sonefeld. They also performed some covers such as 54-40’s I Go Blind, Hey Hey What Can I Do, the only Led Zepplin song that according to Rucker he can sing and as he credits REM for Hootie’s formation, it was not long before Bryan launched straight into a commendable cover of Losing My Religion.

There was also a nod to Rucker’s successful country music career with Wagon Wheel, which he released on one of his solo albums and his hit song Alright from his debut album, Learn To Live.

By the time that they reached Only Wanna Be With You, mashed a little with a cover of Kool & The Gang’s Get Down On It, Hootie & The Blowfish had confirmed that they were still a band to be reckoned with, satisfying not only their existing fans but making plenty of new ones with last night’s performance.