Hootie & the Blowfish: Yet Another Worship Temple

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Hootie & the Blowfish Rock Pine Knob

Ever feel that alternative music has swept every other genre out of business and under the carpet? Hie thee to a Hootie and the Blowfish show, if you can beg, borrow or steal a ticket, that is. After weeks at No. 1, with an entire country of toddlers and grandmas humming "Hold My Hand," there is no band more mainstream, few bands more popular. If terriers could sing, it's no doubt they'd be barking in a Darius Rucker mode.

The Hooties' breathtakingly quick rise to fame was apparent Wednesday night in the price of pavilion tickets at Pine Knob -- a paltry $15. But back when the show was booked, Hootie and the Blowfish were more of a Weezer or Blind Melon sort of act: very strong in the clubs, but questionable in a large amphitheater setting.

And although they could easily sell out two or more nights at Pine Knob now, whether they truly are ready for live shows in an amphitheater that seats 15,000 is another question.

Make no mistake about it: For pop fans, the band's rise has been an inspiration, proof that soulful music isn't a thing of the past.

And their endearing qualities are many; Darius Rucker's yearning, soulful baritone and a knack for writing unforgettable anthemic melodies are among the more compelling. And their lyrics manage to hit universal themes of heartbreak and loss without seeming banal.

They are self-effacing to the point of hilarity. "This song is about relationships that don't work, because I don't know about relationships that work," said Rucker with a shrug.

But the group is so blase about their stage presence as to put audiences to sleep. There is no setting per se apart from the curtain behind them and three funky rugs separating the guitarists from the rhythm section and keyboards.

Visually they could be their audience, garbed in baseball caps and long baggy shorts.

There is nothing to do but concentrate on the music, which is easy if you're up in the first rows of an amphitheater the size of Pine Knob, less possible if you're at the back, surrounded by chattering, drinking fans. Rucker and company are going to have to learn how to compel people to watch them in a larger arena than a club, or they'll be little more than a soundtrack to a fun outdoor party.

It would help if they sped up the production schedule and brought another album out soon, not next winter as planned. Everybody is all too familiar with the songs from Cracked Rear View; "Let Her Cry," "Only Wanna Be With You," "Hannah Jane," "Running From An Angel," etc. The once irresistible "Hold My Hand" has sadly been overplayed into "Stairway to Heaven" type oversaturation.

Indeed, with just one (major label) album of material to work from (many of the songs appeared on their independent releases), the band had to mix in a few new songs, and some cover versions, including Bill Withers' "Use Me" and the Kinks' "Can't Explain."

The evening's concert was dedicated to the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, whose death Rucker noted solemnly at the beginning of the show.

Hootie & the Blowfish: Yet Another Worship Temple
Maintained by: Jonathan R. Sammy