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Review: Rucker draws another sell out to Covelli
March 2, 2014 - Andy Gray
YOUNGSTOWN – Darius Rucker sent a message before he ever came on stage Friday at the Covelli Centre.
When the lights went down, the video screen behind the stage showed 78 rpm records and jukeboxes and other musical artifacts as the music that shaped Rucker’s life played. That soundtrack literally went from Hank (Williams) to (Jimi) Hendrix, from CDB (Charlie Daniels Band) to REM.
The message was clear. Forget labels, forget genres, the things radio programmers and music critics seem more concerned about than the average listener. As Rucker said earlier this week, “The fans just want good music. They don't care where it comes from. If you put out good songs, they want to hear them."
Rucker then spent the next 105 minutes or so delivering that message.
Today what Rucker plays is called country, and there is a little more fiddle, some steel guitar accents, and lyrics that more boldly declare his South Carolina roots.
But “Let Her Cry,” “Hold My Hand,” “Time” and “Only Wanna Be With You” -- the “rock” songs from his days with Hootie & the Blowfish -- didn’t sound significantly different from his current country tracks.
Rucker even described “Let Her Cry” as, “The first country song I ever wrote. I was drinking too much. I was definitely loving too much. I was doing a lot of things too much.”
The transition from mainstream rocker to country chart topper wasn’t a radical one for Rucker. In fact “radical” is the last word anyone would use in connection with him. The singer is laid back and eager to please with that rich baritone that makes the songs go down smoothly.
The crowd clearly loved him. The Covelli Centre’s success with country acts continued as the triple bill of Rucker, the Eli Young Band and David Nail drew another sell-out crowd to the venue.
Rucker’s choice of cover material in his set was similarly genre bending, singing John Mellencamp (“Pink Houses”) and Hank Williams Jr. (“Family Tradition”), Jerry Reed (“East Bound and Down”) and a show closer by Prince (“Purple Rain”).
Mixed around the covers and the Hootie songs was plenty of country, from his first #1 country hit, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” to the ones that followed – “This,” “Alright,” “It Won’t Be Like This for Long,” “Come Back Song” and “Wagon Wheel,” which he saved for the first encore.
Rucker -- wearing a burgundy shirt, dark vest, jeans, cowboy boots and a belt buckle shaped like South Carolina – clearly seemed to be enjoying himself, slapping hands with fans who rimmed the three runways at the front of the stage and doing a little shimmy dance on the up-tempo numbers.
He told the crowd he’s been having fun on the road with Nail and the Eli Young Band, and they joined him on stage (with Nail donning a Youngstown Phantoms sweatshirt) for “Family Tradition.” And while Rucker’s band handled the instrumental break, Rucker, Nail and Mike Eli could be seen doing a shot next to the drum riser.
Considering Rucker’s consistent country chart success and Friday’s capacity crowd, he has plenty to celebrate.
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