DARIUS RUCKER’S SOUTHERN STYLE TOUR IS A COUNTRY ROAD WITH CAROLINA SOUL
There are certain things that capture the essence and the feel of summer and make you wish you could contain it in a mason jar like the lightning bugs we used to catch. When the backyard shimmered with the glow of those magic bugs, it was time to kick off your shoes and run barefoot through the grass. Summer had returned! With Memorial Day being the unofficial kick off of the summer tour season, Darius Rucker’s Southern Style Tour was the perfect choice to whet my music appetite for the sounds of summer. Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pennsylvania, may seem an unlikely place to experience anything southern style, but as Darius said during the show, it’s not about where you live, it’s about how you live.
You need look no farther than the opening acts on this tour to know that Darius is serious about the quality of the show. He didn’t tread lightly when he added A Thousand Horses, Brothers Osborne, and Brett Eldredge to the ticket. They aren’t simply time fillers to occupy the stage until the real reason you came to the show appears. Every one of these acts can command an audience entirely on their own, and how often is it that the first group to hit the stage has the number one song in the country before they’ve even released their first full length album? It was announced during their set that A Thousand Horses’ first single, “Smoke,” hit number one on country radio this week. It was as if fireworks had been shot off to celebrate the occasion of their first #1, and when the smoke cleared, there was A Thousand Horses, ready to unleash the thunder of their live show and a taste of their new album, Southernality.
If you’re looking for a connection between Darius Rucker and A Thousand Horses, it’s a southern thing. Southern Style and Southernality have both tread a country road and share at least a little of a Carolina soul. The heart of these two albums is a lifestyle that connects them. Music was very much a part of that lifestyle and A Thousand Horses stamps their name on the stage as purposefully as “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial.” It’s very easy to pigeon-hole this band if you judge them without seeing them live. The market has been clamoring for a southern rock revival and they’re betting heavily on this horse in the race. There’s a vernacular and a southern rock soul to their music, but their live show is higher octane. They came at me like a cross between GNR and Aerosmith. Michael Hobby’s voice has a Steven Tyler quality to it with a touch of “Tennessee Whiskey” on his breath. He has a commanding presence as a frontman. The volume, and there’s plenty of that, and the grit smack of GNR. The ground was vibrating with the sound they were making and the energy the band gives off hits you like a “Landslide.” If a southern rocker was a “Travelin’ Man” and came home to start a band, A Thousand Horses would be that band. They are soul and passion with a story to tell. The end of their set will have you wanting to throw your horns in the air, and if you hear their music on the radio, turn it up, even if your home is not in Alabama. A Thousand Horses is an opening act that makes a declarative statement…..get to your seats early. You’re not going to want to miss this.
To link Brothers Osborne to Darius Rucker, you could connect them via the water towns they grew up in. Follow the coastline from Charleston, South Carolina, to the water town of Deale, Maryland, that clings to the Chesapeake Bay. Living on the water can be a peaceful thing most of the time, but occasionally it can be a powerful invasion. It laps the shore with a purpose; its temperament entirely tide driven. The music of Brothers Osborne is a reflection of that environment. The brothers, John and TJ Osborne, are a powerful duo that can harmonize with a singular soul. Whatever they’re singing, you can feel the source of their inspiration as surely as the moon is linked to the strength of the tides. All of the songs in their set are a gravitational force, whether it’s a blues coated ballad, a “Rum” soaked groove, or a country and western inspired tune that’s heavy on the western. Their live show includes a backing band that compliments the strength of their voices and elevates the instrumentation to the level of the Zac Brown Band. At times, the brothers stand atop boxes on stage that serve to lift the sound of their leadership. If you were expecting an acoustic duo, this is not it. Though they could certainly do that, they bring a performance that is band based and fully capable of testing the acoustics in any size arena. The power of their music washes over you like a wave, and when the set concludes, you’ll be left wishing they could “Stay a Little Longer.”
Brett Eldredge may seem the lone wolf in this pack of southern boys, but his voice and electrifying stage presence make him just the right transition from the country to the city with a foothold in both. Brett Eldredge grew up in Paris, Illinois, 165 miles south of Chicago. His close proximity to the cosmopolitan offerings of Chicago gave him a music education that was not limited to tailgate tunes. He understands life in the country and small town living, but the inspiration that drives his musical soul is a big song and the big voices that could sing it. Brett’s stage setup is simple. His name appears on a stage prop in an unassuming neon light that changes colors throughout the set. This is not an over theatricized spectacle. He needs nothing but his voice to command the stage as the audience clung to his every note. Whether he’s singing his radio hits or cover songs, he’s a rat pack style singer with the charisma of a big time performer. It’s old school delivery from a time when you couldn’t rely on video enhancements to light up the stage. Brett Eldredge sings for his supper and invites you to the table. He is backed with musical intensity from a band that may “Bring You Back” to the big band era. Their job is to surround and support Brett’s big voice, putting the emphasis clearly on the song. I didn’t expect to be pulled in by Brett Eldredge, but his voice and the “Beat of the Music” were magnetic. Where he fits in the country world is in the power he has to tell a story with his voice, three chords, and the truth. He’s the honesty of an acoustic performance with the depth of a singer’s soul. If this were a relay race, his set is the perfect handoff to the anchorman, Darius Rucker.
When I go to a concert, I don’t ever go having made the decision to review it. Once I get there, I usually start making notes on the set list as it unfolds. By shows end, I’m either inspired to write a review or I’m not. One song into Darius Rucker‘s set, I kicked off the heels, put the phone away, and danced barefoot the rest of the evening. THAT has never happened before. The Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain is an amphitheatre perfectly suited for nighttime summer concerts. The weather on this particular evening provided a perfect summer night for Darius to stage his Southern Style Tour. This was FROGGY Fest, a concert event sponsored by the local country radio station, FROGGY 101. Darius’ live show is a reminder of everything we love about summer, presented with the graciousness of southern hospitality.
From top to bottom, this show is an organic, “Homegrown Honey” experience. It’s Darius’ life in music and view of life from a Carolina setting. What makes it so unique is its relatability outside the region. The set list is a reflection of Darius Rucker‘s identity as a young boy who became a man growing up in the south, the lead singer for Hootie & The Blowfish who made the transition to being a country music headliner. There’s a lot of ground to be covered in those years and the songs illustrate a change in perspective as the years go by. Putting this montage together could have been just a random offering of songs that covered Darius’ history without rhyme or reason. Through the vision and attention to detail of Darius Rucker and his band leader, Jeff Marino, the show is an audio and visual endorphin release. Picture the perfect summer night. No bugs, no humidity, gathered with friends, drink of choice in hand. The evening’s playlist includes all of your favorite songs and you’re inspired to get up and dance. It’s a backyard concert and there’s not a bad seat in the house. That is the feel of Darius Rucker’s Southern Style show.
“So I Sang” is an acoustic style ballad that is essentially Darius’ bio. It comes in the latter part of the show, but it could have been the theme for all that you get with this set list. It’s a feel good combination of songs that Darius loved growing up, the hits from his years with Hootie & The Blowfish, and the country hits that have helped to build his new career. Darius is an engaging presence on the stage without an ounce of entitlement in his DNA. He’s simply there to entertain the audience doing what he loves, and if you can relate to it and enjoy it, that puts a smile on his face. The stage setup allows for and encourages fluidity in the movement of band members to support Darius’ vocals and heighten the experience for the listener. The talented guys that make up Darius’ band are Jeff Marino (drums), Quinton Gibson (lead guitar), Garry Murray (fiddle, mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar), John Mason (bass), Lee Turner (keys), and Sasha Ostrovsky (steel guitar, dobro, banjo). Their job is not to act as an irrelevant entity or a score for video and pre-recorded production elements. Every note you hear in this show is being played and sung live. Their intent is to create a concert experience that is “History In the Making,” not a perfunctory effort.
The video backdrops that provide context for the songs and lighting changes that highlight and set the mood are artfully done, not overdone. There is nothing overwhelming or overstated. There were a couple of spots in the show where the band and Darius gathered in the middle of the stage as an ensemble to give the song a more intimate feel when it served the vocal. As the night progressed and everyone around me was dancing and reacting with glee to each new song, I caught myself feeling high in the moment. Wondering what it was that made this show so different than any other I’d seen, I found the answer in the headliner. Darius was having just as much fun as we were. He was joyful and thankful the entire night, smiling, laughing, and dancing with us – or maybe we were dancing with him. There was a humility to everything he did and a genuine appreciation for the career he’s had. In one of the most fun moments of the set, he surprised us with an R&B classic from the 90s, Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” He let loose and the audience did the same, laughing at the throwback coolness of it all. The group number towards the end of the set puts 14 people on the stage and Darius takes a moment to appreciate the talent assembled there, as did we. The encore ends with the infectious “Wagon Wheel” and the audience singing along happily.
When the trucks roll into your city, wrapped with the Southern Style Tour logo, you are in for a fantastic night of music, a gracious entertainer, and the feel of a summer concert as it was meant to be. Darius captures the carefree spirit of a summer night when you gather with friends to appreciate the simple things. Music is the elixir that satisfies the soul, and when it’s a Carolina soul, the high seems higher. Whether you traveled a country road, city streets, or a highway to see this tour, the music will touch you in a relatable way. You cannot watch Darius Rucker and his band perform and not be moved by the joy they bring to the stage. It’s everything a concert experience was meant to be on a perfect summer night, shared with friends. When Darius sings “Homegrown Honey,” it was written about a woman. We could just as easily sing it back to him….
Ooh, I dig the way that you move
You shake it down to your roots
Did your momma teach you how to do that thing you do
Yeah, nothing sweeter than wild
Ill take a sip of that smile
Ill bet the girls at home can’t leave you alone
You little homegrown honey, honey, honey
You’re so money, money, money
You got a country road Carolina soul
Baby you’re just so homegrown
If you’re looking for the concert event of the season, this is it……..Southern Style!
Visit Darius Rucker’s website for tour information: http://www.dariusrucker.com/shows
Purchase Southern Style through iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/southern-style-deluxe/id974697755
Pre-order A Thousand Horses new album, Southernality: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/southernality/id956896019
A Thousand Horses is: Michael Hobby – Lead Vocal
Bill Satcher – Lead Guitar
Zach Brown – Guitar and Vocal
Graham Deloach – Bass and Vocal
Purchase Brothers Osborne EP through iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/brothers-osborne-ep/id913288038
Purchase Bring You Back through iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/bring-you-back/id676287673
Download Brett’s new single, “Lose My Mind,” through iTunes:
VOTE FOR THE CMT AWARDS!
Every one of these four artists is nominated!
Darius Rucker‘s “Homegrown Honey” video is nominated for CMT Video of the Year!
Brett Eldredge is nominated for CMT Performance of the Year for “Beat of the Music” from the CMT Ultimate Kickoff Party!
Brothers Osborne‘s “Rum” video is nominated for CMT Duo Video of the Year!
A Thousand Horses‘ “Smoke” video is nominated for CMT Group Video of the Year!
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