Typically held at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville during the week of CMA Fest, the annual event went virtual for the first time in its 11-year history in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Rucker didn’t let stand in the way of his helping the children of St. Jude. The crossover star called on friends Clint Black and Tracy Lawrence for the show that aired live from the Grand Ole Opry stage via music streaming platform LiveXLive in an effort to raise money for the Memphis-based hospital working to find a cure for childhood cancer.
Throughout the hour-long show, fans were treated to Rucker’s trademark giggle in between a healthy dose of hit songs including the jovial “Alright,” “Come Back Song,” “If I Told You” and the classic Hootie & the Blowfish number, “Hold My Hand,” Rucker noting how the latter song’s message is particularly resonant today with such lyrics as, “With a little peace and some harmony / We’ll take the world together / We’ll take them by the hand.” Alongside the hits, Rucker also debuted his new single, “Beers and Sunshine.” Penned during a writing session on Zoom in the era of social distancing, the feel-good tune evokes images of “bonfires and summertime” and “back porch nights” in his native South Carolina, centered around the song’s core statement: “The only B.S. I need / Is beers and sunshine.” Meanwhile, 90s country icons Black and Lawrence delivered their own beloved songs, with Black offering his new tune “America (Still in Love With You)” and 1994 chart-topper “A Good Run of Bad Luck” while fellow St. Jude supporter Lawrence treated the online audience to his signature hit, “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” while reinforcing that St. Jude has “saved a lot of lives” since opening its doors in 1962.
Though they were physically apart, fans didn’t let the virtual aspect stop them from enjoying he show together as they lit up the chat bar with their approval of the new format, writing such reviews as, “I’m in my happy place,” “my heart is smiling!” and “you are amazing for what you’re doing!” Rucker ended the evening with a grand finale performance of his smash hit, “Wagon Wheel” with Black and Lawrence joining in on the lively number that featured an impressive harmonica solo from Black as Rucker beckoned, “play some country music boys,” seemingly getting lost in the moment as they sang in harmony.
Though the virtual element added a new component to the concert experience, Rucker’s commitment to St. Jude remained intact as he reminisced on his first visit to the hospital in 2009, an experience so moving that he has become a devoted ally to the institution that never sends a bill to the families it serves, his yearly concert raising more than $2 million for the hospital’s life-saving mission. “St. Jude is an awesome place. I’m glad we could do this again this year,” he remarked. “Hopefully we’ll be back at the Ryman next year.”