US-based country superstar Darius Rucker makes a welcome return to Tyneside almost 20 years to the day since his last performance in the region.

Back in 1998, Darius Rucker was touring the UK with American rock band Hootie and the Blowfish as part of a headline run which made a pit stop at the Newcastle City Hall. Since that time Rucker made the difficult transition from alt-rock through to country music. This being a change which many in the industry didn’t think would work. Of course, Rucker proved his naysayers wrong, having firmly established himself as one of the genre’s most successful artists.

Due to the rising popularity of country music in the UK, many Americana stars are now making frequent transatlantic visits. Such was the demand for tonight’s Darius Rucker show at the Sage Gateshead that it has long since sold out.

Taking to the stage bedecked in a red Nike Golf t-shirt and a black baseball cap Rucker kicks off the proceedings with a triple whammy of “Homegrown Honey”, the incredibly infectious “Radio” along with the beautiful pedal steel infused number “Southern State of Mind”. This, in turn, sets the tone for the night ahead.

Rucker writes songs that we can all relate to, his lyrics come straight from the heart. A thought-provoking airing of “Life’s Too Short”, feel-good song “Alright” and the heartfelt “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” being a testament to this.

Picking up his trusty acoustic guitar and accompanied only on fiddle Rucker takes the crowd back to the 90’s with the classic “Let Her Cry”. This being one of several Hootie and the Blowfish numbers to feature in tonight’s career-spanning setlist.

Darius ends a trio of slower songs and ballads with an astounding performance of his first country Number 1 hit “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”. However, from this point on Rucker declares that it’s all about the hits, fast songs and really good dance songs and he’s not kidding.

It’s always difficult for an artist to win over the crowd in an all-seater theatre; it’s the old analogy that if you give people a seat they will sit. However, tonight Darius Rucker has no problem at all in that department; the whole room up on their feet for the best part of the evening.

Darius and his six-piece band take the fans through a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Friends In Low Places” by Garth Brooks before switching things up with a somewhat funky take on Blackstreet’s chart hit “No Diggity”, which in turn creates a party atmosphere in the room. Dancing in the aisles ensues.

Hootie and Blowfish anthems such as the timeless “Only Wanna Be With You” and “Hold My Hand” still sound as fresh today as they did back in 1994. Opening act Russell Dickerson returns to the stage to participate in the latter.

Darius Rucker recently collaborated with Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Charles Kelley for new single “Straight To Hell”. Subsequently, a harmonious, country-tinged rendition of the Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ classic features in the latter stages of the set, and it does not disappoint.

The main set is brought to its explosive conclusion with a spellbinding performance of “Come Back Song”, which leaves the crowd wanting more. A two-song encore that culminates in Rucker’s recent collaboration with Lady Antebellum by way of the incredibly catchy “Wagon Wheel” brings one of the best performances we’ve witnessed at the Sage Gateshead to a close.

On the strength of tonight’s show, it’s fair to say that it may have taken 20 years for Darius Rucker to return to the North East of England but it was certainly worth the wait.

Darius Rucker
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Event Date: 23-Oct-2018

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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