For a little more than 90 minutes Thursday night at the Riverside Theater in Downtown Milwaukee, Darius Rucker showed a nearly packed house why his honest, heartfelt songwriting has made him a huge hit on not only country radio but with cross over fans from his Hootie and the Blowfish days.
And whether you were there to hear tunes from his solo releases or the Hootie catalogue, Rucker didn't disappoint.
Opening with "Forever Road," Rucker brought his enthusiastic and expressive baritone to a parade of tunes from not only his new release, "Charleston, SC 1966," but his impressive country debut "Learn to Live," which yielded three consecutive No. 1 singles: "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," "It Won't Be Like This for Long" and "Alright." Rucker, of course, performed all three of these tunes during his 18-song set.
Dressed in his "Fantasy Football Legend" T-shirt, the 44 year-old Rucker was flanked by a 5-piece band that included Milwaukee keyboardist, Lee J. Turner.
From the balcony, where I watched much of the show, even though some of the in between song banter was a bit difficult to dicipher (from the floor seats it was crystal clear), Rucker's vocals and his band sounded and looked great. I was a bit surprised to see the video board backdrops on stage. But, with scrolling images, music videos and even lyrics for "Come Back Song," the screens kinda worked.
Rucker did cool renditions of three Hootie tunes, "Let Her Cry," "Hold My Hand" and "Only Wanna Be With You." But, for me, the cover of the night was his kicked up version of Toby Keith's "God Love Her."
Rucker's tour continues through February, and he's scheduled to present at the 44th Annual Country Music Awards next week. Indeed, he's all over the country and all country radio these days but rumors also have a Hootie reunion in the works.
He closed his 4-song encore Thursday with a soulful version of Prince's "Purple Rain." I'd like to close my review with a profound statement about the tune's importance, but I don't have one.
I do know, though, from his solid original stuff and his creative cover of "Purple Rain," Rucker rocked the Riverside while Milwaukee sang and danced along no matter whose songs he was singing.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.