Sarasota-Bradenton-Tampa- Summer music tours are coming to a close around the country but at the outdoor Mid-Florida Amphitheater with temps and humidity at a high, Indian summer keeps the summer music going. A crowd of 15,000 with around 8,000 out on the lawn were ready to party and hoping for a dry night! Opening the show was Russell Dickerson whose career has taken off in the last couple years with his hit “Yours” which climbed to #5 on the 2016 country Billboard charts. His latest release is “Blue Tacoma” and it was a crowd pleaser. Next up, co-headliner Darius Rucker came to the stage to thunderous applause from the Tampa audience. Rucker has been playing the Tampa Bay area since the early days when this writer saw Hootie and the Blowfish at Vinoy Park in the 90’s.
Starting his career in 1986 with the Blowfish, they had a slew of hits from 1995-2006 along with Grammy, American Music and MTV Video awards. In 2008, the South Carolina native decided to venture into country music. In 2009, he won CMT new artist of the year and has been riding the country wave ever since! Rucker does not dis his Hootie days either, his setlist includes the megahit “Let Her Cry” and “Only Wanna Be with You” which had the audience on their feet and singing along. Hootie & the Blowfish still play an occasional show strictly for charity events. All his country hits are included like “Homegrown Honey” and “Alright”. His cover of “Straight to Hell” includes Lady A’s Charles Kelley joining Darius on stage. Kelley along with Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan appeared on Rucker’s recorded version of the Drivin’ N Cryin’ tune and they guest in the video. Check it out on YouTube. Darius closed his set with “Wagon Wheel”.
By the time Lady Antebellum hit the stage, the audience was in full swing and waiting to hear their list of hits! Opening with their latest hit “You Look Good” and the bar drinking sing-along favorite “Hey Bartender”. The trio of Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley have a harmony that is great ear candy! Scott and Kelley’s voices are magical as lead partners. Haywood on guitar and background vocals is also a writer of the group’s tunes. Country artist Dave Barnes who wrote the Blake Shelton hit “God Gave Me You” in a surprise appearance joined Lady A to perform the hit for the Tampa audience! A beautiful rendition with the mix of voices on the stage. A cover of the Stones “Honky Tonk Women” gave the entire band a chance to rock out, the audience a chance to sing & dance and Charles Kelley a reason to jump into the crowd! If that wasn’t fun enough, the next song took it into another level with that crossover massive hit “Need You Now”!
For the encore, Darius Rucker joined Lady A for an audience participation of the Hootie cover, “Hold My Hand”. Russell Dickerson joined the crew on the Deana Carter cover of “Strawberry Wine”. More artists that co-headline should take a page from the book of mixing together onstage! It makes for great musical moments for the fans of all the artists. Lady Antebellum closed the show with their debut single that started it all for them “Love Doesn’t Live Here”. The rain held to a drizzle to make for an all-round great evening of music closing out summer! Next comes fall and winter tour schedules, Kid Rock and Brantley Gilbert will be at the Mid-Florida Amphitheatre on October 12th!
Photos courtesy of Vicky Sullivan / Rock the Lens Photography.