Photographs by Diane Fleischman \ Concert Review by Victoria Durgin
The food is on the grill, the beer is on tap and the Steel Stacks campus is buzzing. That can only mean one thing: it’s Musikfest time.
After a year off the fest returned for a preview night on August 5 before fully opening the next day. Headliner Darius Rucker opened the 2021 festivities to a nearly sold-out Wind Creek Steel Stage audience.
Rucker’s set kicked off at 8:30 p.m. and rolled through hit after hit for the next two hours. He opened with “All I Want,” a song off his first country album released in 2008. Quickly, though, Rucker turned to his newer hits, including current singles “Beers and Sunshine” and “My Masterpiece.”
The back and forth between new and old seemed to become a theme of Rucker’s setlist as he continued through the show, stopping only periodically to banter with the crowd. After he had played through three songs, he did pause for a moment to express how excited he was to be back in front of a crowd.
“I’m just so happy to be back, and be here in Pennsylvania tonight,” Rucker said to an equally enthusiastic crowd.
As the show continued, Rucker blended his solo country work with the smash hits he became known for during his time as the lead singer for critically acclaimed rock group Hootie and the Blowfish. “Hold My Hand” marked the halfway point of the show, and Rucker and his band closed with “Only Wanna Be With You” before returning for the encore.
And if the soft rock of Hootie and the country of Darius weren’t enough for the crowd, they were treated to several cover performances laced into the list. Rucker covered John Mellencamp’s “Little Pink Houses,” Blackstreet and Dr. Dre’s “No Diggity” and the Garth Brooks classic “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places.”
While the song choices might look odd on paper, Rucker’s powerful voice and casual attitude seemed to make the songs all perfect moments for the evening. The genres blended perfectly, and Rucker barely paused during the performance, giving the audience plenty of time to sit back (or stand up) and enjoy nearly two and a half hours of uninterrupted live music.
The setlist seemed balanced between old and new, country and otherwise, from the covers to a song Rucker wrote with Ed Sheeran (who he described as a “great guy”) about his fifth grade love. Beer, old love, new love and an appreciation for what you have while you have it were popular topics for the night.
The three-song encore after “Only Wanna Be With You” offered one more cover, this time of “Valerie” in the style of the late Amy Winehouse. Then, Rucker performed “History in the Making,” a solo song of his, specifically because Rucker saw on his social media that someone in the audience asked for it as it was their wedding song.
“We never play this anymore,” Rucker said in the introduction, “but just for you tonight, we are going to.”
The last song of the show was the mega-hit “Wagon Wheel,” a cheerful, easy to sing along to number that capped a night of entertainment and, for many, sheer gratitude to once again be at a live show.
After a year of no Musikfest and virtually no live music anywhere, Rucker ushered in an excitement for Musikfest 2021 in style and surprise.
Darius Rucker Official Website:
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