Darius Rucker swings through Vilar, raises funds for SPRI

Nate Day
Rucker is set to reunite with his band for a reunion tour in 2019.
Image courtesy of Getty Images

The Steadman Philippon Research Institute welcomed Darius Rucker, country music superstar and frontman of Hootie & the Blowfish, on Dec. 1.

The concert served as a fundraiser for the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, which is known for its pioneering research in osteoarthritis, healing, surgery, injury prevention and rehabilitation.

The Steadman Philippon Research Institute has also become a hub for learning, as Board of Directors Member Steven Read explained that about 500 students come through the institute to learn each year.

To make the occasion even more special, Rucker performed well-known Frank Sinatra numbers with a 16-piece big band rather than his own hits. This was the first time that Rucker has given such a performance in Colorado.

The set list included “Come Fly Away,” “Summer Wind” and “The Way You Look Tonight.”

Support Local Journalism

Rucker, a longtime friend and supporter of the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, was eager to lend his talents to the benefit.

“I’m here for two reasons,” Rucker said. “I’m here because it’s fun, and I’m here because my mom taught me as a young boy that if you can help anybody in any way, you should do it.”

Al Perkins, a board member with Steadman Philippon Research Institute, noted that Rucker “always answers the call.”

Alongside Rucker and the band was Band Leader Peter Graves. Graves previously worked with Sinatra himself, as well as other music legends such as Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

Varied Audience

The Vilar Performing Arts Center, where the performance took place, was nearly full, and attendees at the event ranged from Vail residents to travelers, young to old and from rock fans to Sinatra-lovers.

Jill and Monty James traveled to Vail from Maryland and brought their party of eight to the concert after seeing Rucker would perform.

“We’ve seen him several times before,” Jill said. “When I knew we were coming out here, I looked up the Vilar to see what was happening … so when I saw (Rucker) was playing here, I was excited.”

Alex and Caitlin Kendall also made the trek up from Denver to see the show. Having seen Rucker perform his solo music, the trip was a no-brainer to see him perform again.

“Do you think he’ll perform any of his own stuff?” Alex Kendall asked, a fan of both Rucker’s rock and country music. “I really hope he does.”

Rucker did in fact perform a jazzy rendition of “Let Her Cry,” one of Hootie & the Blowfish’s biggest hits. The number was immediately met with applause and was certainly among the favorites performed that night.

Jack and Meredith Rogers, also fans of Rucker’s, were excited to see a celebrity like him supporting the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

“We were blown away when we saw it,” Jack Rogers said. “And we don’t come to many events here, but when we saw that Darius Rucker was coming, and that they were putting on this event, we purchased tickets to support the cause.”

Rucker’s passion for not only the music, but also the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, and he performed enthusiastically for several hours with only a brief 15-minute intermission.

Rucker occasionally paused to share anecdotes as well, including the story of performing “The Lady is a Tramp” as Hootie & the Blowfish in front of Sinatra for his 80th birthday celebration. Following the performance, which Rucker was understandably nervous for, he and his band received strong praise from Sinatra himself.

Rucker has won three Grammy Awards (between his solo career and his time with Hootie & the Blowfish), a Country Music Association Award and an Academy of Country Music Award over the course of his three-decade long career. Rucker will reunite with his band for a tour in 2019, featuring the Bare Naked Ladies.

Graves notably worked on music with the likes of Dolly Parton, Dionne Warwick, Firefall and more.

Support Local Journalism