Review + Photography by John Hayhurst

Leeds fans are treated to a big slice of Southern USA alt rock as Hootie & the Blowfish return to the UK after a 23-year absence, and they bring along Drivin’ & Cryin’ and Patrick Davis for the ride.

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In 1994 a debut album was released called ‘Cracked Rear View’ and I can still vividly remember DJ (at the time) Danny Baker waxing lyrical about the sound and voice from lead singer Darius Rucker. It made me check it out and sure enough I was hooked. As the band toured the world extensively in the mid to late 90’s the album became a staple player in my CD collection, along with several Black Crowes records and I was lucky to catch several performances live when they played the UK. At the time you think this will go on for several more years, but for whatever reason they stopped coming over here, preferring to stay in their native Southern USA to play a few charity gigs. When a big reunion tour was announced and they are including Leeds, well there isn’t anywhere I would rather be. Across the road at the Arena – Alice Cooper is still playing his Nightmare show, and even further down in the University grounds The Psychedelic Furs are kicking out their greatest hits. Tonight, in Leeds is a bit of a trip down memory lane, to reminisce about those heady 90’s, without associating it with bucket hats, brit-pop or even grunge.

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Patrick Davis is up first and he’s playing to a half full venue due to the queues of people waiting to collect tickets or get through security checks, people outside were not happy waiting when they could hear music inside! Davis is a long-time friend of Hootie and has toured with them before and also with Darius Rucker solo throughout Europe. This whole tour feels like a group of friends getting together to jam around, as Mark Bryan (Hootie Guitarist) pops up to play some mandolin in a credible version of The Beatles Norweigian Wood near the end of his set. Acoustic Americana played by someone who has written countless songs for others and yet largely goes unknown in the UK, similarly the next band on stage are pretty much unknown here too, except for a handful of loyal T shirt wearers at the front.

Patrick Davis

Patrick Davis-2

Drivin’ and Cryin’ have been going for years and yet I’ve never managed to see them live, even during the halcyon days in the early 90’s when they were on the touring circuit supporting the likes of Neil Young. Kevn Kinney, the only remaining founder member, is looking a little battle weary these days but still manages to get those emotional needles flickering when the trademark voice and harmonica are blasting out across the academy. Like Neil Young, it is a little more laid back and folk/country than I expected, as most of my favourite songs are rockers, but they manage to fit in some incredible slide guitar playing by Laur Joamets who got the crowd fired up a little more. Their set culminated in the classic ‘Straight To Hell’ which still has me laughing at the lyrics “I kept fallin’ like a Rolling Stones song, I’m going straight to hell”, since the Mystery Road album this Atlanta band have been in my collection, and at times I’ve turned back the clock 20 years or more to play them all over again.

Drivin&Cryin-4

Drivin&Cryin

Having introduced nearly all the band from either South Carolina or Georgia, Marc Bryan bursts out on to the stage again, it’s like he can’t believe he’s on stage playing mandolin with them, as he cries “It’s Drivin’ and Cryin’ maaan” like he’s a kid who just won a competition to meet his idols. The Georgia Music Hall Fame inductees have gained a few new fans even in this late stage of their career and are popping up at some smaller venues for headline gigs while they are in Europe with Hootie – look out for them.

As an adapted Samuel L Jackson introduction of Ezekiel 25:17 (made famous in Pulp Fiction) is heard, the band are filing out under dimmed stage lights, and as it ends with “and you will know my name is… Hootie and the Blowfish”, the lights beam brightly and the band launch into ‘Hannah Jane’, opening track from Cracked Rear View. It’s a belting start for a band who for a number of years in America were facing a backlash of criticism, as it was considered “uncool” to like Hootie, probably as their debut album became certified platinum 21 times right in the middle of the Seattle Grunge period. Not so here in the UK though, where we have been starved of live performances since the mid-nineties.

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Hootie & The Blowfish-5

Understated and incredibly cool, Darius Rucker starts as just another member of a large band on stage, his baseball cap is tight over his head, worn the right way around, and you really struggle to see his eyes or the top half of his face. You can see him smile though, and whilst there might be some grey stubble around the chin, he is looking pretty good for a 53-year-old. The voice is as expected, fully intact, smouldering, velvety and very deep. Mark Bryan is everywhere; he’s completely fired up beyond all recognition and even manages several full jumps in the air whilst playing his guitars. As Hannah Jane ends, the audience here are already screaming and clapping, the band are taken aback a little, “Sorry we haven’t been here for over 20 years” Rucker announces, and then they continue a mammoth set playing nearly all of the Cracked Rear View album and several covers.

Surprisingly ‘Hold My Hand’ is early in the set as I had assumed it would be encore material, and similarly the beautiful ‘Let Her Cry’ which showcased the Rucker vocal cords to perfection.

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Hootie & The Blowfish-8

Taking time out to introduce all members of the band, who it appears can play any instrument, they make a toast on stage to themselves getting back together, and to acknowledge another important band during their formative years – REM. Covering ‘Losing My Religion’ could have been an error, but it wasn’t – and actually fitted incredibly well with Bryan on mandolin once again. Jokingly they then said that the only Led Zeppelin song they knew was ‘Hey Hey What Can I Do’ and they do a reasonable cover of that too. The set was peppered with tracks from Cracked, and then opportunities for some fun covers, a party atmosphere ensued – I believe they even covered Champagne Supernova in Dublin too. Trad country tune of Will The Circle Be Unbroken was the next and then Rucker had a chance to flog his solo stuff with a version of ‘Alright’ from his album Learn to Live. New song Rollin’ showed that they will have some new material coming next month, the album Imperfect Circle.

The set carried on for over an hour and a half before the expected finale of Only Wanna Be with You which was strangely interspersed with Kool and the Gang’s Get Down On It (What?) Nevertheless, this was a well-constructed professional performance with the original members and a few extra musicians to provide that fully rounded Hootie noise. This was fun, not so serious and worth every penny, Folk/Americana/Rock music sitting side by side for a great evening’s entertainment. Please don’t leave it another 20 years!

Hootie & The Blowfish

Hootie and the Blowfish

DUBLIN SETLIST (similar): Hannah Jane / State Your Peace / I Go Blind / Sad Caper / Not Even The Trees / Hold My Hand / Rollin’ / Losing My Religion / I Will Wait / Let Her Cry / Hey Hey What Can I Do / Will The Circle Be Unbroken/ Desert Mountain Showdown / I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You / Alright / Running From an Angel / Time / Hold On / Wagon Wheel / Old Man & Me (When I Get to Heaven) / Fight the Power / Freaks of the Industry / Shining Star / Goodbye / Go and Tell Him / Champagne Supernova ENCORE: Only Wanna Be With You / Get Down On It / Only Wanna Be With You

LISTENING: Cracked Rear View – released July 1994

WATCHING: Hold My Hand Late Show performance May 2019

Mark Bryan-2

Mark Bryan

One Response to “Hootie & the Blowfish + Drivin’ & Cryin’ + Patrick Davis at O2 Academy, Leeds, UK – 7th October 2019”

  1. Sharon Harton Says:

    Great photos and great review. Saw them in Manchester last night and agree with you!

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