For the two thousand people who battled the sweat and packed conditions at Melbourne’s Forum last night, they got to watch something very special. I guess you could call it a battle of the bulls, the old and the new. On one side Darius Rucker returning to Australia after a 20 year hiatus and on the other Luke Combs barely in his twenties enjoying his first plane ride ever arriving on our shores late last week.
Combs has been making an impression from the moment he touched down in Brisbane to play CMC Rocks Queensland over the weekend. A native of North Carolina Combs is the real deal writing and singing a hat trick of number one country hits over the last 2 years. Combs love of people and one big sweaty party was evident the moment he moved his large imposing frame onto the forum stage. Singing songs about beer, boot scootin and relationship break ups may all sound cliché to some, Combs puts a fresh coat of paint on all the topics. I am sure with Sydney still to come Australia has not seen the last of this man.
As the lights dim on this sweaty Melbourne evening, it’s time for Darius Rucker and his six piece to take to the stage. Cramped in and ready, armed with voices that at times over shadow the man himself, for one night welcome to Australia’s home of country music. Rucker has successfully reinvented himself since his last tour of Australia. As the lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish he is no stranger to fame, armed with a Grammy Award and several number 1 singles this musical veteran promptly makes himself very comfortable with the sell-out audience. Rucker is living proof he has successfully transitioned from soft rock to the world of country music.
Opening with “This” from the 2010 album Charleston SC 1966, Rucker promptly moves into “Radio” from the 2013 smash True Believers. Dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans Rucker moved and grooved to each song backed by the full house choir. Rucker paused briefly before introducing the fourth song of his set and would you believe it was a cover of the 80’s Men at Work hit “Overkill”. Rucker couldn’t do a show without introducing a few hits he wrote along the way with his Blowfish, “Hold My Hand” went over a treat as did “Let Her Cry” but the biggest reaction came with the worldwide smash “Only Wanna Be With You” which had everybody jumping. It’s hard to believe this trio of hits all came from the 94 album Cracked Rear View, so long ago. The set consisted of a lot of covers from the Garth Brooks classic “Friends in Low Places” to of all things Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning” the audience sang along to all of them. Rucker’s band appear more like friends than members all six play an integral role in the show and are acknowledged (be it very humbly) by Rucker.
Holding the audience in the palm of his hand Rucker closed the first encore with his country smash “Wagon Wheel” which had the audience jumping and dancing, their vocal almost drowned out the band as they sing along, Returning to the stage Rucker finished the night with his version of Prince’s “Purple Rain”.
I think it is fair to say country music is alive and growing. With sell out shows in three different states including the very successful CMC Rocks Queensland expect Rucker to return and Combs also next time as a headliner.
Review Contributed by Natasha Wyborn