Darius Rucker, as you probably know, helped shape the landscape of pop in the '90s as front man of the Grammy award winning rock group Hootie & the Blowfish before embarking on a second calling as one of contemporary country music’s most genuine acts.
On the first level of NRG stadium, near the northeast end, there is a stand selling locally roasted Katz coffee. Since I don’t normally enter the building from the carnival side, this was the first time I smelled that familiar inviting aroma wafting through the air upon stadium entry. I bring this little scene up in a music review because roasted coffee beans are a smell I often associate with coffee shops and the pop and alternative music played within.
Friday evening’s set at RodeoHouston was a grab bag of both ends of his career and then some. The South Carolina native juggled these musical identities like a true professional, reminding the crowd of 65,006 that good music is the name of the game, no matter what.
"It doesn't matter what genre of music you're talking about, a great song is a great song,” Rucker proclaimed after a joyous crowd helped him sing every word of “Only Wanna Be With You,” arguably Hootie’s biggest hit.
To really bring his point home, Rucker and his band followed the song up with Tim McGraw’s “Back When” and Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” Two very different songs, to be sure, but two songs that longtime fans of Rucker are likely to be familiar with in equal degree.
Rucker went on to play a set heavy on singles from his country career, like the fantastic Old Crow Medicine Show cover “Wagon Wheel” and the honky tonk ready “Good For A Good Time,” but Hootie songs like “Time,” “Let Her Cry,” “Hold My Hand, ” and of course “Only Wanna Be With You” easily garnered the loudest audience responses of the night.
Throughout the set, Rucker was chock full of between song banter that showed everyone that he’s the guy in this year’s lineup that it would be most fun to grab a beer with.
Whether he was waxing sentimental about how much he loved being a dad to his kids, joking about how nice those boys from the '90s who called themselves Hootie & the Blowfish were, or singing the praises of the guys in his now eight-year-old backup band are, I believed he was speaking from the heart. I would be very surprised to learn that he doesn’t do this every single night he plays.
I’m crossing my fingers for a fourth appearance by Rucker and crew next year. It’s a very rare thing to spot this sort of authenticity in a performer when you’re watching in one of the most sterile settings in live music, so it was a real treat to have seen it come out so easily while Rucker performed. I seldom see an artist not enjoying themselves at RodeoHouston, but Rucker was having the time of his life performing these songs for seats so far away from the stage.
To the rest of this year’s lineup: Take note. Darius Rucker just might have played the best show of RodeoHouston 2016.
Good For A Good Time
I Got Nothin'
Pink Houses (John Cougar Mellencamp)
It Won't Be Like This For Long
Only Wanna Be With You
Back When (Tim McGraw)
No Diggity (Blackstreet)
Let Her Cry
Hold My Hand
Come Back Song