w/ Michael Ray and Dan + Shay
First Niagara Pavilion
June 26, 2016
Review by Kellie Gormly
Concert encores usually follow the “Save the best for last” principle. And in the case of Darius Rucker on June 26 at the First Niagara Pavilion, the best came in a surprise package that delighted the audience.
For the final song of the evening, Rucker channeled the recently passed Prince and sang a passionate tribute to one of his musical idols with his rendition of anthem “Purple Rain,” on a stage bathed in purple lights.
It was a very touching ending to an entertaining and lively show, with Rucker’s setlist including his many hits as a country soloist along with some old favorites from his time with ’90s rock band Hootie and the Blowfish, and some other artist’s songs. It was a fun variety for the audience to switch modes among country hits (“Southern State of Mind,” “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”), classic Hootie hits “Time,” “Only Wanna Be With You”) and the fun oldies surprise from Garth Brooks, “Friends in Low Places.” Rucker’s fulfilling setlist lasted nearly an hour and 45 minutes.
Rucker – casually clad in simple jeans, a t-shirt and a Grand Ole Opry baseball cap – engages with the audience with a warm charisma that includes frequent dialogue with the audience. He regularly reminded us about his gratitude for being a singer and the fan support, and previewed the song “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” – backed by touching screen images of babies and little kids – by talking about how being a father is the best job in the world.
Opening for Rucker were fun performances by Michael Ray and Dan + Shay. Fans enthusiastically greeted the first half of the duo especially, since Dan Smyers is a native of McCandless.
We hope that Rucker makes “Purple Rain” a concert-ending staple in the future.