Review Rascal Flatts at the Cruzan Ampiteatre

“It’s just hit after hit,” my friend gushed toward the end of Rascal Flatts’ 20-song set at Cruzan Amphitheater tonight, and she was spot-on.

From the second Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney set foot on stage, they had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands.

Another thing started as soon as they took the stage?
Gary LeVox began to sweat. And sweat. And sweat.
He joked at one point that he’d have gladly paid the air conditioning bill and I believe him. He probably didn’t even realize that afternoon cloud cover and showers cooled things off a bit.
But as hot as it was, the performance was blistering.

These guys could be taking it easy these days. Resting on their laurels. Phoning it in. Goodness knows they don’t have to come here at all. But they do.

Vocally, LeVox is literally The Voice. His performance of Bless the Broken Road, for example, had more runs than the World Series. On songs like What Hurts the Most, we wait all the way to the end to hear him hit that one incredible note. Totally worth it.

And the way it swells like a tsunami on Here Comes Goodbye? I’m nearly washed away by it.
But it’s not solely the voice of Flatts that you come back every year to see. There’s Rooney’s effortless lead guitar. His gentle manner that makes you wonder where the intensity on guitar comes from.

And Jay DeMarcus on piano? He speaks the language of lyric and melody. His musicality mystifies me.
Now on their sixth album, you would think Rascal Flatts would be reinventing themselves, trying too hard. Maybe stumbling a bit in their attempt to keep fans happy. But the band can play a song like Love You Out Loud from their second album and go right into Love Who You Love from Unstoppable, their sixth, and it’s nearly seamless.
Not that they haven’t grown. They have. And one way is their relaxed rapport with the audience. Their personalities come out more and more each year.

LeVox put on a silly-looking hat (well, it looked silly on him!) that he took from someone in the audience and posed for photos. More than once when a fan handed him a T-shirt to sign, he did, but only after he’d wiped his sweaty face on it!

Could it be that they’re having more fun than ever?
It certainly seems so.

One guy I am sure is having a lot of fun is opening act Darius Rucker. From the second he took the stage – and he looked great in his white shirt, jeans, boots and a Nike ball cap (which he gave to someone in the audience at the end of his set) — he worked it. Clearly the audience showed up on time to catch his set and he didn’t disappoint them.

I was surprised that he played so many Hootie and the Blowfish songs (three), especially since the crowd seemed more familiar with his country material. He did say that Let Her Cry was the first country song he ever wrote, and it dove-tailed neatly into the middle of the set. A cover of Hank William’s Family Traditon and Prince’s Purple Rain kept the fans on their feet.

And Rucker offered one of the most sincere thank-you’s I’ve ever heard from an artist, to all the fans who have embraced his music. They hung on every word.

The evening started with a surprise appearance by Cledus T. Judd, a musical-comedian famous for his song parodies. Well, famous might be an overstatement. He did a quick three song set – My Cellmate Thinks I’m Sexy (Chesney’s She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy), I Love NASCAR (TK’s I Love This Bar) and Hard Time (Alan Jackson’s Good Time.)

I’m not sure why he was there. I don’t think anyone else knew either. But no worries. He may have delayed the show by 15 minutes, but he didn’t do anything to prevent the show from being great, wholesome, family-friendly entertainment.

Darius Rucker Set List
Forever Road
Alright
Let Her Cry
All I Want
It Won’t Be Like This for Long
Family Tradition
Drinking and Dialing
Only Wanna to Be With You
Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It
Purple Rain

Rascal Flatts Set List
Summer Nights
Stand
Fast Cars and Freedom
Me and My Gang
Bless the Broken Road
Still Feels Good
Mayberry
Lean On Me
Backwards
Praying For Daylight
Here Comes Goodbye
Melt
Love You Out Loud
Love Who You Love
Take Me There
My Wish
What Hurts the Most
Bob That Head
Plus an encore of Revolution, Hold My Hand with Darius Rucker and Life Is A Highway.

Take a look at some pictures

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