Some of the 12,000 fans came for Darius Rucker, and some came for Lady Antebellum on Thursday night at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre. But they probably all went home satisfied by the co-headlining “Summer Plays On” tour that closed out this year’s season at the amphitheater.
Rucker took the first turn in the spotlight, taking the stage just before 8 p.m. for an hourlong set that opened with “Homegrown Honey,” “Radio” and “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.”
And if a music show is made of moments, Thursday night’s had one that fans probably still are talking about. During Rucker’s ballad “If I Told You,” a man down front seemed to get on the singer’s last nerve. After the song, Rucker pointed him out and mimicked a cheesy fake smile and high-speed, front of face wave. Rucker — who had called the song one of the greatest he ever sang — pointed out that it was a ballad and said: “Man I want to punch you in the throat.” The crowd roared and presumably never heard from waving man again. Point, set, match: Rucker.
He dipped into his Hootie & the Blowfish days with “Only Wanna Be With You” and “Let Her Cry,” calling the latter the first country song he ever wrote. He kept the stage simple, with two video screens behind the band and some faux wood fencing the only other decorative touch.
At one point, he called out Lady A’s Charles Kelley to join him for “Straight to Hell,” which they jokingly called the SEC song as the video, which includes featured roles from Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan, played on the screens behind them. Rucker also introduced Kelley as his “best friend in country music,” and it showed in their easy rapport on the stage.
Thankfully, Rucker bucked what seems to be a trend of singers wearing plain white T-shirts, sporting a black “This Shirt Saves Lives” that raises money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
He got a huge ovation for “Hands on Me,” a sexy ballad from his latest “When Was the Last Time” album. And he surprised some fans by closing his set with his uber-popular cover of “Wagon Wheel” — which the crowd probably expected in the encore. Nope.
After a break of about 15 minutes, it was Lady Antebellum’s turn, and the trio made a low-key entrance, launching into “You Look Good.” Yes, Kelley was in the plain white T-shirt.
Like Rucker before them, the trio stuck mostly to their catalog of hits such as “Hey Bartender” and “Our Kind of Love.” Before “Heartbreak,” Hillary Scott paused, rhinestone-studded microphone in hand, to thank the fans for supporting their music and said, “We have this moment, just us, and we will always have this” and sounded like she meant it.
Along with master musician Dave Haywood, lending backing vocals and guitar, they sang “Dancing Away With My Heart,” and crowd-pleasers such as “American Honey” and “Run to You.” They also shared the spotlight with two songwriters who wrote the Chris Young smash “Think of You” and the Keith Urban song “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” performing both on stage with a closing rejoinder from Kelley: “Next time, send that song to us and not to Keith Urban.”
They rocked out on a cover of “Honky Tonk Women” before closing out the 65-minute main set with “Need You Now.” The night’s inarguable highlight came when both headliners returned for a four-song encore, starting with the best: the Hootie hit “Hold My Hand” and wrapping up the night with a few more, including “Strawberry Wine.” A fine finale for a good season.
Newcomer Russell Dickerson — yes, also in a plain white T-shirt — got the night started.