ot all that long ago, contemporary country music concerts were evaluated on the amount (or lack thereof) of authentic country music elements in the performers' content. And make no mistake about it, this is still a relevant issue since so much of what passes as 'country' these days is hardly that at all. But perhaps a more pressing issue is that of relevant, thoughtful lyrical content in the music. Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line have so lowered the standard, to the point where 'songs' sound more like beer commercials, pick-up lines or both, and women are objectified and devalued to being seen as little more than swimsuit models.
Against this depraved cultural backdrop, Darius Rucker looked mighty fine on a recent Saturday night in Orange County California. Rucker's sound, which is as much soft rock and folk, as it is country, was consistently enjoyable as it drifted out in the warm evening air. However, the content of his songs, which steered well clear of chauvinistic bro-country territory, was a thing of true beauty to behold.
Rucker is one of the most unpretentious music stars you'll ever want to meet. He came out dressed in blue jeans (ripped in small places for wear, not style), a dark blue t-shirt and a Grand Ole Opry ball cap. He then sang a series of songs that resonated deeply with his appreciative audience. He introduced "Southern Style" as a song that is not about where you're from, but who you truly are. He also sang "History in the Making," which he dedicated to anyone that may have used his music for a special occasion, such as a wedding. The latter song is all about appreciating noteworthy life moments while they're happening because they just may amount to history in the making. Rucker also sang a few fine romantic songs, including "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" and "Come Back Song."
The man got his start as the singer with the rock act Hootie & the Blowfish, so - not surprisingly - Rucker also threw in a few of that band's hits. In fact, he brought on all the opening hands to take turns singing the verses and choruses of "Hold My Hand" toward the end of the evening. When all was said and done, this sold out arena walked away humming Rucker's hits and thinking about much of the good stuff of life. This is what makes country music so great, rather than the sloppy drunken frat parties so prevalent today. Rucker does it with true southern style.
Brett Eldredge preceded Rucker with a high energy set of his own. Wearing a black & white version of the 'Where's Waldo?' shirt, the singer bounced like Tigger of the Winnie-the-Pooh series when the beats got fast. However, he calmed things down considerably once he strapped on an acoustic guitar to sing his big hit "Mean to Me."
Brothers Osborne took home the prize for the most truly country performers of the night. With a short set long on twang-y electric and steel guitar, these two brothers sang their singles - the older "Rum" and newer "Stay a Little Longer" - as well as a fresh song called "Greener Pastures" culled from a current album the pair are working on. Although the duo appeared a little out of their element when trying to adapt their sound to the huge main stage at Stagecoach recently, tonight, they had early arrivals clapping along and stomping their feet to their down home country style.
A Thousand Horses both looked and sounded the part of a young southern rock band. However, their sound fell on a sparse crowd, as many of the (eventually) large crowd (including yours truly) were still stuck in traffic jams on L.A. freeways that led to the venue through much of their set.