Hootie & the Blowfish bring some Southern comfort
Hootie & the Blowfish were America’s best bar band of the ’90s, according to music journalist Stephen Thomas Erlewine. While they weren’t considered emblematic of the era’s alternative rock movement, they achieved a recognizable sound that gave listeners a break from the turbulence of the mid-’90s, much in the way singer-songwriters and soft rockers did in the ’70s. The band’s biggest hit, “Hold My Hand,” was inescapable as 1994 gave way to 1995, while the easygoing “Let Her Cry” contributed to a sonic blueprint that country artists would draw on for decades.
The band is currently on a reunion tour that celebrates the 25th anniversary of the major label debut that spawned those singles, Cracked Rear View. While the band couldn’t have predicted they’d be on the road some three decades after forming, they assumed from the get-go that they’d still be playing music together. The beginning was inauspicious enough, as lead singer Darius Rucker first hooked up with lead guitarist Mark Bryan in the late ’80s at the University of South Carolina after the latter heard the former singing in a dorm shower. They began playing covers as The Wolf Brothers before adding Bryan’s high school friend Dean Felber on bass.
With the addition of Jim “Soni” Sonefeld on drums in 1989, the lineup the world would know as Hootie & the Blowfish—a combination of two of the band’s friends’ nicknames—was complete. The musicians cut their teeth at frat parties and bars, eventually working originals into their sets. Encouraged by the response, they began touring statewide, then expanded to the East Coast concert circuit. Atlantic Records signed them in 1994, but it was a spot on Late Show with David Letterman that made them stars. Sales of Cracked Rear View, which had been out for six months, tripled overnight and the album reached No. 1 in May of 1995.
Both “Hold My Hand” and “Let Her Cry” went Top 10, with the album’s biggest hit “Only Wanna Be with You” reaching No. 6. “Let Her Cry” garnered a Grammy for Song of the Year by duo or group, and Hootie and the Blowfish were named Best New Artist. Cracked Rear View went on to sell 10 million copies.
After their 2008 summer tour, the members pursued different artistic avenues, with Rucker carving out an impressive country music career during the course of five albums. They reunited in 2015 to appear on one of the final episodes of Letterman’s show, then stayed together. Twenty-four years to the month that Cracked Rear View went to No. 1, Hootie & the Blowfish appeared on the season finale of The Voice, playing “Let Her Cry” and joining finalist Gyth Rigdon for “Hold My Hand.” The world had become a far different place since Bryan first heard Rucker’s magic voice, but it was ready for the kind of southern comfort that only Hootie & the Blowfish could provide.
T-Mobile Arena, 7:30 p.m. June 22, starting at $29.50 plus tax and fee. 888.929.7849 AXS