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Rascal Flatts on rewind: Still popular, still rocking

06/16/2014 12:21 PM

Rascal Flatts has been part of the country music world for more than 15 years, and the industry has changed significantly over that time.

These days, it’s overrun by a wave of guys backed by rock bands singing rock songs about their trucks, their beer, their fishing holes, their girlfriends and their favorite pair of jeans — a “country brodown,” as Entertainment Weekly called it.

Though the three members of Rascal Flatts — Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney — don’t fit the brodown mold, the trio is still popular. Some evidence of that: the nearly 10,000 fans who attended Sunday’s show at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater in Bonner Springs.

There were, however, plenty of rock moments in their 80-minute set: lasers, flashpots, smoke, sparklers, a lavish video show and gales of heavy guitars. They opened with “Payback,” the first track on their new album, “Rewind,” released in May. It’s a rap-rock anthem about rescuing a gal on the rebound: “Baby, I could be your payback / Hey, gonna help you get your sway back.”

Next came one of the dozen No. 1 country hits they released in a span of nine years, “Why Wait,” a pop song embroidered with a buoyant fiddle line. It was the first of several songs that aroused a big sing-along. “These Days,” another of those No. 1 hits, was another. They followed that with “What Hurts the Most,” a poppy love ballad with a heavy boy-band vibe, and then generated even more steam, rattling off three more of those No. 1s in a row: “Fast Cars and Freedom,” “Bless the Broken Road” and “Banjo.”

In the middle of the show, they tossed a change-up, pulling their band members to the front of the stage to join them in two well-executed a cappella performances: “Love You Out Loud” and a cover of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”

After that one, Sheryl Crow, one of two openers, sat in with LeVox, DeMarcus and Rooney for an acoustic version of one of her hits, “Picture,” which she co-wrote with Kid Rock. She then returned the favor, joining them on one of their own songs, “My Wish.”

Crow would return to the stage a few songs later with the three members of Gloriana, the other opener, to join Rascal Flatts on “Life Is a Highway,” which closed the set. But the boys weren’t done.

They’d return for a two-song encore. First came a clamorous cover of Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart,” performed amid a storm of smoke, flashpots and other pyrotechnic flair. Then came “Me and My Gang,” another rock tune with rap flavorings, fiddles and banjos and a chorus that includes the line, “We’re gonna rock this thang, cock this thang, me and my gang.” Because though Rascal Flatts may be in rewind mode, it knows rock is still the future of country music.

Sheryl Crow: The Missouri native and Mizzou grad played a 10-song set that included several of her biggest hits, including “All I Wanna Do,” “My Favorite Mistake” and “If It Makes You Happy.” She introduced a couple new ones that sound written with current country radio in mind: “Shotgun” and “Best of Times.” And on “Redemption Day,” she got some vocal help from the late Johnny Cash, via video.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com.

Rascal Flatts set list: Payback; Why Wait; Here Comes Goodbye; Rewind; These Days; What Hurts the Most; Fast Cars and Freedom; Bless the Broken Road; Banjo; Love You Out Loud; Happy; Picture; My Wish; Summer Nights; DJ Tonight/Hot in Here/Here’s to You; Life Is a Highway. Encore: Kickstart My Heart; Me and My Gang.

Sheryl Crow set list: A Change Would Do You Good; All I Wanna Do; Shotgun; My Favorite Mistake; Best of Times; Strong Enough; Redemption Day; If It Makes You Happy; Soak Up the Sun; Everyday Is A Winding Road.

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