Darius Rucker entertained an enthusiastic crowd at the HTC Center on the campus of Coastal Carolina University in Conway on Saturday night. Tickets went on sale for the show in May and sold out quickly. Given the multiple top ten hits from his solo country career and his long-time fame as frontman of Hootie & the Blowfish, this was a hot ticket from the onset.
As the rain poured down on the outside, fans were all smiles and boots on the inside of the arena. Bethea Best of Myrtle Beach said, “it is great to see a South Carolina musician achieve such fame.” The sentiment carried strong among the diverse age span of the Rucker fans in attendance.
For Cam Morrison of Myrtle Beach, it was her first concert. Ever. In the same group of giddy ladies, Jill Carroll of Myrtle Beach said that she has been a fan since the Hootie days. Sharing knowledge of the singer and his music with younger generations permeated into the set that Rucker put on for the adoring fans.
The seats were packed with very little room to move while the floor area had some space to breathe. The lights went down and Rucker launched into his feel good country tune “Radio.” The crowd took to its feet and remained there for most of the show.
As Rucker nailed every tune, he noted that, “this was the song that started it all” before he belted into “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” Taking full stance in his role as a country music star, Rucker seemed to be abandoning his Hootie beginnings in front of the home team.
Then, the band launched into the Hootie classic “Time” and melded that with the John Mellencamp hit “Pink Houses.” This grabbed the old school fans and wrapped them into the set even tighter. The very next song warranted the crowd to respond to, nearly, every verse in his pitch perfect hit “Southern State of Mind.”
The air held more anticipation than just a country show. In fact, Rucker’s crew was filming the music video for his new single. Announcing that “South Carolina is the only place to film this video,” he belted his new track to the delight of the crowd. As the film crew hustled around the stage and he pulled an actor on stage for the filming, the fans seemed even more excited to share in this process. So much so that during a second take of the song, the audience amped up their performance to indulge the country hit maker.
Rucker continued giving some love to his Hootie days with versions of “Let Her Cry,” “Hold My Hand” and “Only Wanna Be With You.” Showing off his light-hearted personality, he showcased Hank Williams, Jr.’s “Family Tradition” as a duet with opening act, country newcomer Ricky Young. The audience was more than happy to participate in the chorus of the song.
“True Believers" closed out the set and sent the crowd into a clapping frenzy calling for, what appeared to be, the reason they were all there. Caroline Blanton of Myrtle Beach says that her favorite song, and everyone else's by measure of cheers, is Rucker’s cover of the Old Crow Medicine Show’s tune “Wagon Wheel.”
For the encore, “Wagon Wheel” started and the crowd took the energy to a level we had not seen in the show until now. Fans started singing at audible levels and dancing in the aisles. This was, clearly, what the people had been waiting for.
Closing the show with “Purple Rain” by Prince was as unexpected as it gets. The crowd, that had started to make its way to the exits at the conclusion of “Wagon Wheel,” headed back in to hear Rucker belt out the ‘80s pop classic.
The only hiccup in the show was that Rucker, on two separate occasions, called out to the crowd as “Charleston.” He also referenced “South Carolina.” Never once did he mention Myrtle Beach or Conway. This may have been staged for the camera crews or for the beer service section in the VIP boxes above the floor.
Overall, Rucker puts on an amazing country show and is a mere record or two away from not having to play songs written with his former band to fill a set with hits. Nostalgia is something that will be a part of his solo career in time, but, for now, the audience rocked away to both incarnations of one of the Palmetto State’s biggest music stars.