Standing at the entrance of Assembly Hall, they were as far as they eye could see – cowboy hats. Cowboy boots. Cowboy everything. As I careened toward my seat, navigating through the sea of Rascal Flatts fans, it suddenly hit me – this is what the heartland of America looks like.
Every possible pairing was in attendance. Mothers and daughters, groups of girlfriends and couples of all ages waited in giddy anticipation for the show. Personally, I was nestled between an elderly, bearded gentleman to my left and two very enthusiastic tweenagers to my right. My favorite fans were the tiniest ones, wide-eyed and dressed adorably in homemade (by Mom, no doubt) Rascal Flatts T-shirts. Yes folks, the under-7 set was well represented at this concert, and when the lights went down, they were ready to rock.
Overall, I was very impressed by what the Rascal Flatts’ Me and My Gang Tour had to offer. Certainly not by all of it. There were certain elements, blatantly geared toward the family demographic, that were both off-putting and undoubtedly cheesy. I also could have done without the gigantic screen and surrounding smaller ones broadcasting images that went along with the lyrics, a la American Idol. Images of sunsets, rain drops, waterfalls and girlish silhouettes looked more National Geographic than artistic expression. With that out of the way, on to the finer points.
The opening act, Jason Aldean, was fantastic. His performance was energized and engaging and his thankful, understated country-boy personality was very endearing. His self-titled album recently went platinum and before playing one of its singles, he remarked,
“I didn’t know how many rednecks there were in the world ’til I did this song.” His band, an immensely talented bunch, proceeded to rock out on “Hicktown,” which more than set the tone for the rest of the evening.
And those Rascal Flatts? They were what one would reasonably expect of a big arena act. It is safe to say that Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney’s performance justified their $60.00+ ticket price. They were consummate show men: polished, personable and perfectly coiffed (and I’m positive LeVox’s jeans were bedazzled … a definite plus). Even though the “conversations” between the band members and the audience (aka band member tells funny anecdote, audience laughs) seemed staged and contrived, it was all in a effort to connect with fans on a more personal level, which is a difficult task in an arena the size of Assembly Hall.
Rascal Flatts’ musical talent is truly the element that made the show work on many different levels. LeVox’s voice is brilliant in its theatricality; soft and syrupy sweet at times, loud and booming at others. His charisma really anchored the show (this show being the last one of the Me and My Gang Tour), but the multi-platinum success of the Flatts is more of a group effort. Throughout the show, each band member had a “time to shine,” a little vignette of sorts where each played a short solo set. Joe Don Rooney wooed all the ladies with his masterful guitar looks and pretty blond hair. Seriously. I must have been looking at him the wrong way, because the tweenager next to me told me I “better not jump her man.” Jay DeMarcus played no less than five instruments throughout the duration of the show, has a formidable singing voice and was all-around extremely impressive.
The best parts of the concert were when they all sang together in full force. The look on a fan’s face when a favorite song was played said it all: Rascal Flatts has the ability to light up an individual’s face. Standouts were the rowdy “Me and My Gang,” the touching tale “Skin” and “Bless the Broken Road,” the show closer “Here’s to You,” complete with a confetti explosion (much cooler than it sounds) and the showstopping encore “Life is a Highway.” Overall, Rascal Flatts offered a fantastically entertaining show, and even though it was cutesy and a little too polished at times, those country boys were great.