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Rascal Flatts goes down easy

Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts, Mansfield, Mass., September 10, 2006

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

The career of Rascal Flatts has been on an upward trajectory since they broke out with their very first single, "Prayin' For Daylight" six years ago.

And based on their concert before a packed crowd, it's not hard to see why. Rascal Flatts puts across a bunch of pop, if not-rock oriented songs (that don't have all that much to do with country) that are certainly catchy. And thanks to a slew of hit singles, they have enjoyed a considerable following.

The trio of lead singer Gary LeVox, guitarist Joe Don Rooney and bassist Jay DeMarcus doesn't particularly offend anyone either. Most of the songs are feel good love songs.

The bottom line is looking for well-crafted pop songs, Rascal Flatts fills the bill.

As evidenced of where they are at musically when it comes to country, few songs had any direct country link. Fiddle was almost always a part of the mix, but perhaps the most country part of the night was a segment in which the fiddle player soloed for awhile.

The likable song, "Mayberry," also filled the country quotient.

But when it came to covers, Rascal Flatts turned to The Eagles (somehow they did eventually get grouped in with the country crowd) for a good version of "Hotel California with DeMarcus taking lead vocals while switching to drums, and the evening's closer, "Life is a Highway." They also paid homage to Aerosmith and AC/DC in a dueling drum solo with DeMarcus as one of the participants. In other words, they did not pay homage to any country acts.

So accept Rascal Flatts for what they are, it could make for an enjoyable evening. LeVox isn't a flashy entertainer, doesn't dance, which he fully acknowledges, but he does a good enough job as lead singer and certainly is capable of infusing a song with sufficient emotion.

Rooney proved to a strong guitarist whether on electric or acoustic, though, of course, when he played electric, he tended to rock. And DeMarcus is versatile, also playing guitar and piano, while taking lead on one song as did Rooney.

As for the songs, they don't get all that much sadder than "Skin (Sarabeth)," but the Flatts put their emotion into that one with the crowd easily singing along.

Give Rascal Flatts credit for doing what they do well. It may not be everybody's idea of country music for sure, but thanks to good songs, strong staging and a good catalogue of songs, Rascal Flatts has found themselves enjoying a strong run.

Gary Allan opened with a less traditional country set than the music founds on his discs. Perhaps given the outdoor shed setting, Allan strayed away from his country roots for more of a rock sound.

The Californian sings quite well with a tremendous amount of timbre in his voice.

And the guy knows more than a thing or two about heartache unfortunately. He introduced "The Best I Ever Had," saying his wife died two years ago, and "Somebody sent this song to me, and I listened it over and over, and it got me through some really tough times." Following a very heartfelt reading of the song, Allan received quite a strong response.

Allan unveiled a brand new song as well, "As the Crow Flies," which had a Stonesy country feel to it. The song sounded good, but it rocked.

At the conclusion of his 45-minute set, Allan received a standing ovation for his brand of tough sounding country.

Katrina Elam opened with a strong enough voice, which shined on a closing yodeling song, but most of her set was borderline country. Elam, admitting that she was nervous as this was the biggest crowd that she ever sang to, recalled Faith Hill somewhat vocally.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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