Ever since having the opportunity to interview Darius Rucker for NYSMusic, I was anxiously awaiting Darius’s arrival in New York as a little kid would be awaiting Christmas morning. His genuine easy going manner during his interview was only a mere foreshadowing of how dynamic this entertainer was. Raising the roof at the Oncenter War Memorial in Syracuse and the Times Union Center in Albany, he played to the crowd like a pro athlete. How could he not with the hat trick he had in store for us? The evenings lineup was definitely stacked to ensure winning performances as newcomers Cam and David Nail got the house a rockin’ before Darius came in to score the final winning goal.
Opening the evening was newcomer Cam. Hailing from California, this dynamic young lady has made her mark in country music in a huge way. Catching the attention of this journalist with her recent release of Burning House, she has been on my radar from the moment I heard her unique sound, her deep lyrics, and melodic voice. She’s fresh and energizing and took the stage like a ball of fire bouncing around delivering a set that didn’t disappoint. I urge you to remember her name as she will soon be head lining and selling out arenas all by herself as a top entertainer in the business. No tomato here.
Next up was David Nail. Nail’s persona was a bit more subdued, however don’t let his quiet demeanor hinder his ability to wow you. The moment he opens his mouth this strong sultry country crooner melts your heart and mesmerizes you. Singing his hits “Whatever She’s Got,” “Let It Rain,” and “Kiss You Tonight,” Nail nailed it.
As Darius took to the stage, his opening number was a celebration of lights and a bit reminiscent of Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation,” minus the scaffolding. He continued on that momentum and revved it up a bit more playing all of his country hits while interspersing bits and pieces from not only his Hootie & The Blowfish catalog but also other favorite covers from the Black Crowes to Blackstreet. Have to say, my favorite ditty of the evening, hands down was “No Diggity.”
Darius has a way of connecting with his audience because he leaves it all out there on the stage. His comedic manner of asking people to stop taking photos of him when he comes over to sing to them, gave us a glimpse of his sense of humor. And just for the record, the man had groove. He could move it and didn’t have a problem shaking it while he sang. His no holding back continued throughout the evening as he shares intimate bits and pieces of inspirational moments that brought him to music; personal peeks into his life featuring video footage of his wife and children, and he ultimately shared moments of his true inspiration, his mother. It’s this sharing and connection that makes you feel as though you are a personal friend, and what makes Rucker a true country superstar.
My favorite moment of the night was the encore. As Darius and fellow bandmates returned to the stage for the encore, he shared with the crowd what he coined as “the most honest song he ever wrote,” “So I Sang.” The only song that could possibly have topped that in my book was his cover of Old Crowe Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” which has become a signature song and which closed out the night.
It was truly a pleasure welcoming Darius Rucker back to the New York region in Syracuse and Albany. This Charlestonian demonstrates what I love most about him and all those I’ve ever met in Charleston, the hospitality they extend, their pride they take in all things family, tradition, and culture, and their honesty in what’s important in life amidst a culture so full of technology, hustle, and bustle. It’s Darius’s music that makes you stop and take notice of all those things around us that are matters. That’s his Southern Style, up front and personal.