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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Darius Rucker rocked Ascend Amphitheater

With Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors as his opener, Darius Rucker performed the last concert of his “Starting Fires Tour” at Ascend Amphitheater.
Ben Neely
Darius Rucker singing at Ascend Amphitheater, as photographed on Oct. 14, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Ben Neely)

For the final stop of his “Starting Fires Tour,” Darius Rucker turned Ascend Amphitheater into one big honky tonk while also embracing his rock and roll roots. 

He made his musical debut as the lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish, a rock band formed in 1986. In 2008, he made the switch to country music as a solo artist, and it’s been history ever since.

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, a country band from Memphis, Tenn., opened the concert. The band consists of lead vocalist Drew Holcomb, guitarist Nathan Dugger, bassist Rich Brinsfield, drummer Will Sayles and keyboardist Ian Miller. They opened with their folksy song “That’s On You, That’s On Me” from their new album “Strangers No More.” They then brought out a tambourine for “All the Money in the World” and had the audience sing background vocals. Holcomb also gave out a vinyl copy of their new album to a young “cowgirl” in the audience. 

In the second half of their set, Holcomb sang a love song for his wife that he hadn’t sung in 15 years called “What Would I Do Without You.” They energetically covered “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty, who is one of Holcomb’s musical role models. Before they closed their last set with “Dance With Everybody,” Holcomb told the audience to put their “dancing shoes” on and instructed the lighting crew to turn the lights up so he could see the audience. Before exiting the stage, they announced that they will close their tour next spring back in Nashville at Ryman Auditorium.

When Darius Rucker came onstage, everyone immediately stood up from their seats. He performed alongside his band, The Carolina Grey Boys, consisting of bassist John Mason, drummer Jeff Marino, keyboardist Lee Turner, guitarist Quinton Gibson, steel guitarist Sasha Ostrovsky and violinist Garry Murray. He opened his set with a feel-good song about doing what makes you happy titled “Have A Good Time” from his new album “Carolyn’s Boy.” Next, with a Corona beer in hand, he took a swig and sang “Beers and Sunshine.” He brought out Drew Holcomb to duet his first #1 country hit, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.”

Rucker took us back to the ‘90s with covers, “I Like It, I Love It” by Tim McGraw, “Waterfalls” by TLC, “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe and “No Diggity” by Backstreet and Dr. Dre. However, he didn’t just limit himself to the 90s; he also covered “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp (1983) and “Valerie” by The Zutons (2006).

He performed many hits from his former band days, like the first country song he ever wrote “Let Her Cry,” “Hold My Hand” and their most popular, “Only Wanna Be With You.” I especially loved this portion of his set, as I can remember listening to Hootie & the Blowfish with my dad when I was younger. Rucker also featured one of his favorite songs, “Carolyn’s Boy.” He closed the concert with his most popular hit, with over 630 million streams on Spotify, “Wagon Wheel.” When the audience heard this song’s iconic opening, they jumped up, danced and sang along.

Rucker’s set catered to all generations, performing hits from 1980 to 2023, as well as various genres: country, rock, pop and R&B. This concert not only bonded baby boomers and those from Gen Alpha but also created unity amongst those with different music tastes. As a Gen Z college student with baby boomer parents, this concert was very nostalgic: I got the opportunity to hear music that I grew up listening to as well as more recent country albums I have been exposed to as a Nashvillian and Alabama native. As history has highlighted, new generations continue to appreciate music from past generations and utilize it as inspiration for music today, just like Drew Holcomb and Tom Petty.

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About the Contributor
Olivia Noell
Olivia Noell, Staff Photographer
Olivia Noell (‘25) is from Anniston, Ala., and is majoring in neuroscience, medicine, health and society and gender and sexuality studies in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys hammocking, spending time with friends and trying new restaurants around Nashville. You can reach her at [email protected].
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