Darius Rucker hosted the 12th annual “Darius and Friends” benefit concert on Tuesday, Aug. 17 at the Ryman Auditorium, surpassing the $2.5 million mark and raising $410,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital during Tuesday’s concert. The evening kicked off with a live auction benefiting St. Jude where two autographed guitars were sold for $10,000 and $16,000, and attendees and livestream viewers were urged to text their donations to the hospital.
“We’ve been doing this for 12 years,” Rucker said on stage of his annual benefit concert. “We’ve raised almost $3 million dollars for St. Jude.”
For more than two hours, Rucker and his famous friends performed more than 25 songs to a packed crowd at the renowned venue. Rucker’s band backed the night of music, which included appearances by Rucker, Brothers Osborne, Elvie Shane, PGA golf pro John Daly, Jason Aldean, Keb’ Mo’ and Runaway June. Here are the night’s highlights:
Brothers Osborne bring the heat
Brothers Osborne launched into an electrifying three-song set with the fiery “It Ain’t My Fault.” The rowdy number got the audience immediately on their feet with frontman TJ Osborne telling those seated in the balcony that it was OK to stand. “I’ve been yelled at personally so many times for standing in that balcony, so I’m personally going to vouch for anybody who wants to stand up and have a good time out here tonight,” he said. “I’m Not For Everyone” and “Shoot Me Straight” followed while guitarist John led the band in a minute-long jam session before the close of the duo’s set.
Darius Rucker debuts Ed Sheeran-penned new song, “Sarah”
“You gotta drop the name and tell the story, right?” Rucker said, prefacing his performance of an unreleased song. The singer flew to England to write with Ed Sheeran and the first thing the Englishman asked Rucker upon their meeting was, “who was your first love?” Rucker responded with his fifth grade girlfriend, Sarah. “We were there for 12 hours and for the next six, seven hours he asked me everything: ‘Did her dad like you?’” Rucker recalled. “No, her dad hated me. He thought I was a hoodlum from the hood. … This is the song Ed wanted to write about my fifth grade girlfriend.”
Rucker performed the nostalgic ballad’s first verse alone on acoustic guitar before his band joined in. It is expected to appear on his next record. “I don’t want to be your lover, I don’t want to be your man/ I just want to sit and talk to you till the day is through like we’re 13 again/ I ain’t lookin’ for a one night, I’m just looking for a friend,” Rucker sang on the song’s chorus.
Runaway June makes Ryman Auditorium debut
Before Runaway June kicked off its three-song set with female anthem “Buy My Own Drinks,” the trio’s Jennifer Wayne told the audience it was the group’s Ryman Auditorium debut. The women commanded the stage as if it was their headlining show, engaging the crowd and enchanting with spellbinding harmonies and ear-grabbing fiddle accompaniment by newest member Natalie Stovall. Radio friendly new song “T-Shirt,” available Friday (8/20), featured an earworm chorus alongside a stomping beat while set closer, Tom Petty cover “American Girl,” had the Ryman erupt into a sing along.
Keb’ Mo’ teams with Rucker for spirited “What’s Going On” cover
Keb’ Mo’ reached out to Rucker earlier this year to ask him to sing on his upcoming record. “I was blown away,” Rucker said of the invitation. It only made sense that Rucker would return the favor and invite the singer to join his benefit concert.
Following a soulful solo performance of “Rita” and the driving “I Remember You,” Keb’ Mo’ invited Rucker back to the stage as the pair teamed for a powerful cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” The men put their own spin on the song and at one point took off their baseball caps and switched the lyrics to, “Who are they to judge us/ Simply ’cause our hair is gone.”
PGA golf pro John Daly performs “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
An avid golf fan and player, Rucker surprised the Ryman crowd when he brought out PGA golfer John Daly. At home on the Ryman stage, Daly performed Guns N’ Roses’ “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” as if he wrote the song himself. (He didn’t, it was Bob Dylan). Strumming an acoustic guitar, Daly’s deep vocals reverberated throughout the hallowed church pews as the audience screamed in approval.
Hootie & the Blowfish songs get countrified
It’s not a Darius Rucker show without some songs from his former band, Hootie & the Blowfish. From the ear-grabbing slide guitar interlude of “Only Wanna Be with You” to the fiddle infused “Hold My Hand” and stripped down songwriter round style of “Let Her Cry,” Rucker proved that even Hootie & the Blowfish has its country influences. Of course there’s no better place to showcase those songs than the Mother Church of Country Music itself.