Darius Rucker performing his Summer Plays On Tour at The Symphony Hall Birmingham on Sunday 21st October 2018.

Images and review by Kevin Cooper

Darius Rucker originally made a name for himself in music as lead vocalist and guitarist of rock band Hootie & The Blowfish in the 90s but has made no secret of the fact that his first love is country music. Now only the second African-American after Charley Pride to make it big in Nashville, it was a packed Symphony Hall who last night turned out to see why.

Rucker had this bunch of country fans on their feet for his whole set which included his biggest hits and a few great covers. Starting with Homegrown Honey, a song from his 2015 album, Southern Style, he showed that he is firmly planted in the hearts of his fans as they sang along to every word and did not stop singing until the last song of the encore.

Radio and Southern State Of Mind were equally well received and For The First Time saw his very talented band come to the front of the stage to soak up the appreciation from the adoring fans. With Sasha Ostrosky playing his steel guitar brilliantly, backed up by Quinton Gibson also on guitar, the slower new song If I Told You was subliminal.

There were obviously some Hootie numbers that could not be missed out, and he did not disappoint as he started Only Wanna Be With You to thunderous cheers, Hold My hand added a hint of 90s nostalgia to the evening, whilst the beautiful Let Her Cry which he played on an acoustic guitar accompanied only by Garry Murray and his fiddle was a real highlight.

There were some fabulous covers too with Garth Brooks’ Friends In Low Places, Blackstreet’s No Diggity and Drivin’ ‘n’ Cryin’s Straight To Hell which raised the audience noise levels even further.

With this ever smiling South Carolinian moving about the stage and dragging everyone into his own version of Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe, he included a sentimental It Won’t Be Like This For Long before finishing his main set with Come Back Song.

Sending the audience into a delightful frenzy he encored with Hands On Me before finishing with the song that had catapulted his country career into high demand, Wagon Wheel, and having put his own spin on the Bob Dylan And Old Crow Medicine Show version, it was easy to see why his version had earned him a Grammy Award for Best Solo Artist, because it simply rocked.

It’s not every day that Birmingham’s Symphony Hall is turned into The Grand Ole Opry but last night Darius Rucker managed to do just that. From the reaction that he got from this audience, they must be hoping that he comes back and does it all over again and does it soon.