US country superstar Darius Rucker’s story is unparalleled. Having experienced mass fame with his Grammy winning alt rock outfit ‘Hootie & The Blowfish’ in the 90’s, Rucker made the courageous, yet difficult transition into country music; a move many advised against. Four highly successful albums and countless worldwide tours, Rucker has proved naysayers wrong and continues to build on the success.
The success of the annual Country2Country festival has enabled them to promote a country week of concerts around UK venues, which has been the platform for Rucker’s recent tour; spanning 6 dates around prestigious venues.
The evenings show, the penultimate date on the tour, is at Manchester’s grandeur Albert Hall. The evening’s proceedings began as the 6 piece band took to the stage, shortly accompanied by a casual Rucker decked in a baseball cap and Chic t shirt. The introductory 4 tracks deliver that familiar uplifting vibe, setting the wheels in motion for the groove ladened funky ‘Radio’ to the anthemic single ‘For The First Time’.
With a back catalogue of 4 solo albums, Rucker’s prolific songwriting covers a plethora of scenarios, stories and emotions so easily accessible and relatable. The cathartic ‘If I Told You’ is introduced with the lights dipped and Rucker stating it’s the favourite song he’s written, showing a much more emotive side than that of the aforementioned tracks.
Towards the mid section of the set Rucker appears solo, with only a guitar in tow. After a few mere initial notes the audience are taken back to Ruckers former 90’s heyday with an uplifting rendition of the Hootie & The Blowfish classic ‘Let Her Cry’, amassing a sing-along from the sold out audience.
There aren’t many occasions where Rucker engages with the audience, this doesn’t discourage the reception from the adorning fans in attendance, as when he does it’s truly something special. Discussing the importance of truly great songs Rucker leads the way into an interesting medley, compromising of Garth Brooks’ ‘Friends In Low Places’ fusing into Blackstreets ‘No Diggity’. In writing it’s a pairing that shouldn’t work, however the band and Rucker put their unique spin on to make both completely their own, effortlessly blurring the line between a ballad and an up tempo track.
Throughout the set it’s evident that despite it being a solo venture this very much is a band. Rucker introduces the band, with the members sharing the spotlight and taking centre stage for a brief solo duel with a banjo vs doboro.
The #1 hit ‘Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It’ takes things up a gear or two, with what appears to be everyone in attendance echoing every lyric. In a live setting it’s apparent how crucial Rucker’s band is from their captivating vocal harmonies during the wholesome ‘Alright’ to their general first class musicianship and in-band chemistry.
The culmination of the set largely consists of covers; from Drivin N Cryin’s 1989 classic ‘Straight To Hell’ to Hootie & The Blowfish’s perfectly executed Hold My Hand’, with Rucker calling out support act Russell Dickerson on stage to take the reigns, injecting a new lease of life to the 20+ year old track.
The biggest surprise of the night follows the vibrant fan favourite ‘Comeback Song’. Rucker takes to the mic to announce that for previous nights this sounded the end of the set, however he had a surprise up his sleeve for Manchester. Silence resonated around the room as a few notes introduced the impeccable Oasis timeless classic ‘Champagne Supernova’. Certainly one of the highlights of the evening which undeniably went down a storm with those in attendance.
The explosively animated set is brought to a close; a 2 song encore follows, inevitably terminating with a blistering performance of the addictively catchy ‘Wagon Wheel’.
Darius Rucker, throughout his illustrious career has achieved the unimaginable and defied all kinds of odds. If this evening’s performance is anything to go by, on his next return across the Atlantic should see Rucker on an upwards climb to arena sized venues.
Southern State Of Mind
When Was The Last Time
If I Told You
Life’s Too Short
Let Her Cry (Hootie & The Blowfish cover)
It Wont Be Like This Forever
Friends In Low Places/No Diggity (Garth Brookes/Blackstreet medley)
You Can Have Charleston
This Is My World
Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It
History In The Making
Straight To Hell (Drivin N Cryin cover)
Hold My Hand (w. Dickerson) (Hootie & The Blowfish cover)
Champagne Supernova (Oasis cover)
Hands On Me
Wagon Wheel (Old Medicine Crow cover)