Review: Hootie and the Blowfish reunion in Raleigh brings rain, Generation X nostalgia

Generation X got a major dose of “Group Therapy” at a nostalgia-filled Hootie & the Blowfish concert Friday night in Raleigh, just the second stop on their highly anticipated reunion tour.

But first they had to wait through two thunderstorms and a two-hour show delay at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek.

Even after the lengthy delay, the amphitheater was still mostly filled with thousands of Generation Xers as well as their elders and those younger, too. The tour kicked off the night before in Virginia Beach, Va. Barenaked Ladies, another band whose career took off in the 1990s, is the tour’s opening act.

“Thank y’all for braving the weather and sticking around,” Frontman Darius Rucker told the audience.

Rucker, who has enjoyed a successful solo country music career since Hootie & the Blowfish took an extended hiatus a decade ago, led a show featuring hits like “Hold My Hand,” “Let Her Cry,” “Time” and “I Go Blind.”

And while the show included a few of Rucker’s solo hits “Alright” and his version of “Wagon Wheel,” the night was devoted to Hootie & the Blowfish’s catalog, with most of their “Cracked Rear View” album interspersed through the night.

Still, the audience sung along louder to “Wagon Wheel” than “Hold My Hand,” especially the lyrics “Heading down south to the land of the pines, I’m thumbing my way into North Caroline,” and “If I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free.”

Hootie and the Blowfish play Raleigh, N.C.’s Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek on their reunion “Group Therapy Tour” Friday night May 31, 2019. Scott Sharpe ssharpe@newsobserver.com

The show had plenty of Raleigh references, in particular the band’s shows at the Brewery, a music venue on Hillsborough Street that has since been torn down. Lead guitarist Mark Bryan gave the Brewery a few shoutouts, telling the crowd that the band performed “Let Her Cry” for the first time during a sound check at that show. Some fans may also recall when Hootie & the Blowfish played Walnut Creek more than 20 years ago, also on a night of major rain.

The show started with a ‘90s reference Gen-Xers got immediately — a Bible verse, Ezekiel 25:17, which played a major part of the film “Pulp Fiction.” Some words were switched out to references to the band. “Pulp Fiction,” starring Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, came out in 1994, the same year as “Cracked Rear View.”

The band included a few covers, too, with Rucker singing R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” adding that his band wouldn’t be around without R.E.M. paving the way before them.

Rucker and Bryan clearly seemed thrilled to be back on stage with a sellout crowd in front of them.

The band is loved in the Carolinas, and especially their home state of South Carolina. The band formed at the University of South Carolina in the late 1980s. There’s even a Hootie Day in Charleston, S.C., now. The reunion tour will make their way back home this fall with three shows scheduled in Columbia Sept. 11-13.

Hootie & the Blowfish’s 1994 album “Cracked Rear View” was one of those CDs played at some point at about every college party in the 1990s, and has sold 16 million copies. Then, they managed to get fans from both the fraternity and sorority crowds as well as fans of ‘90s jam bands like Dave Matthews Band.

They won two Grammys, for Best New Artist and Song of the Year by a duo or group for “Let Her Cry.”

The audience at Friday’s concert stuck it out through the rain delay with the easygoing nature of their generation. They put on rain ponchos and hunkered down until the rain, and hail, passed. Even when hundreds of people were outside the gates for a second round of storms, people joked around to pass the time.

Darius Rucker reacts to the crowd as Hootie and the Blowfish play Raleigh, N.C.’s Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek on their reunion “Group Therapy Tour” Friday night May 31, 2019. Scott Sharpe ssharpe@newsobserver.com

Barenaked Ladies, a band name for a bunch of Canadian men, played a shorter than planned set because of the rain delay. They didn’t go on stage until 9:30 p.m., but played some hits as well as their “The Big Bang Theory” television show theme song. They ended with a medley that included a snippet of “Shallow,” from the recent film, “A Star is Born.”

Hootie & the Blowfish’s fan base is young enough to fill enough shows at big venues but old enough to prefer sitting down for them rather than standing shoulder to shoulder the entire time. Still, most of the audience Friday night was on their feet for the duration.

They’re not the first ’90s band to embark on a reunion tour, and they’re unlikely to be the last.

Hootie & the Blowfish set list from Raleigh, NC

Hootie & the Blowfish and Barenaked Ladies brought the Group Therapy Tour to Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh May 31, 2019. Here is the setlist:

1. “Hannah Jane”

2. “State Your Peace”

3. “I Go Blind”

4. “Fine Line”

5. “Even the Trees”

6. “Hold My Hand”

7. “Losing My Religion” (R.E.M. cover)

8. “I Will Wait”

9. “Let Her Cry”

10. “Hey Hey What Can I Do” (Led Zeppelin cover)

11. “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”

12. “Desert Mountain Showdown”

13. “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love With You” (Tom Waits cover)

14. “Alright” (Darius Rucker song)

15. “Running from an Angel”

16. “Drowning”

17. “Time”

18. “Wagon Wheel” (Darius Rucker cover of Old Crow Medicine Show song)

19. “Old Man and Me (When I Get To Heaven)/ Fight the Power/Freaks of the Industry/Shining Star”


20. “Goodbye”

21. “Go and Tell Him (Soup Song)”

22. “Only Wanna Be With You/Get Down on It”

Hootie and the Blowfish play Raleigh, N.C.’s Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek on their reunion “Group Therapy Tour” Friday night May 31, 2019. Scott Sharpe ssharpe@newsobserver.com

Barenaked Ladies set list in Raleigh, NC

Barenaked Ladies opened for Hootie & the Blowfish and played an abbreviated set. Here is the setlist.

1. “Brian Wilson”

2. “Odds Are

3. Lookin’ Up”

4. “Pinch Me”

5. “The Big Bang Theory” theme

6. “One Week”

7. “If I Had $1,000,000”

8. Medley of “Shallow,” “Old Town Road,” “Sicko Mode,” “High Hopes”

9. “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin cover)

Hootie & the Blowfish Tour Dates

The tour continues with stops in Atlanta on Saturday, June 1, then on to Nashville and concerts in Alabama, Florida, Texas and across the country before coming back to North Carolina for a show at PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte on Sept. 5 and three nights back in Columbia, S.C., Sept. 11-13.

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Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan covers North Carolina state government and politics at The News & Observer. She previously covered Durham for 13 years, and has received six North Carolina Press Association awards, including a 2018 award for investigative reporting.