Todd & Chris Owyoung

Todd & Chris Owyoung Hootie & the Blowfish are very vocal about the fact that R.E.M. is their favorite group and one of their biggest inspirations.  In fact, the title of their upcoming album Imperfect Circle was inspired by the R.E.M. song “Perfect Circle.” So they were thrilled Saturday night when R.E.M.’s Mike Mills joined them onstage for their show at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

First, Hootie frontman Darius Rucker noted that a member of their touring band, Peter Holsapple, had played acoustic guitar on the original version of the next song they were going to play.  Then, they brought out Mills, and announced they were doing a tribute to R.E.M., starting with “Losing My Religion” — the song on which Holsapple had played guitar.

Mills reminisced about seeing a then-unknown Hootie playing in a bar in South Carolina back in the day, and being impressed that they were performing an R.E.M. song.  He then launched into R.E.M.’s “Don’t Go Back to Rockville,” from their 1984 album Reckoning.

The Hootie concert was one of two at the Garden on the band’s current Group Therapy tour with Barenaked Ladies.  Later in the night, BNL joined Hootie onstage for a group rendition of Joe Cocker‘s version of The Beatles‘ “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

The concert also featured a performance of “Rollin’,” the first single from Imperfect Circle, which is coming out November 1.  It’s the first new Hootie & the Blowfish album in more than a decade.

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