Rascal Flatts knows how to throw a party
MANSFIELD - Through a mist of rain and an autumnal breeze whipping across the lawn seats, Rascal Flatts’s opening salvo should have felt woefully out of place. But sure enough, “Summer Nights’’ - timed to a pop of bright lights, pyrotechnics, and crunching electric guitars and fiddle - gave the
Rascal Flatts is arguably country music’s biggest and best party band, led by confident and dexterous singer Gary LeVox. Even a skeptic who hasn’t especially liked the trio’s albums (read: yours truly) can’t help but get swept up in the good-time vibe that pervades a Rascal Flatts show.
The difference live is that the albums’ bombast works much better when the group is cranking it out onstage in front of thousands of cheering fans. In the loosest sense, Rascal Flatts is a country band, but its penchant for rock ’n’ roll is undeniable, and the proof is in its crossover success on the pop charts.
Songs like “Bob That Head,’’ “What Hurts the Most,’’ and “Me and My Gang,’’ all of which were hijacked by serenading fans at the Comcast Center, would have been hits in any genre.
For all the volume and theatrics, though, some of Rascal Flatts’s shining moments were the dialed-down ones. “Bless the Broken Road,’’ a beatific ballad with gospel overtones, showcased the group’s tight three-part harmonies. And guitarist Joe Don Rooney and bassist Jay DeMarcus snatched their own bit of the spotlight with a more intimate segment meant to emulate some Nashville front-porch singing and picking. Playing piano, DeMarcus led the crowd in a medley that included “Lean on Me’’ and “Backwards.’’
A three-song encore, solely of cover songs (the Beatles’ “Revolution,’’ Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway’’), was a little silly and strictly in service to the party. Opening act Darius Rucker joined them for a spirited take on “Hold My Hand,’’ a massive hit for Rucker’s previous band, Hootie & the Blowfish.
Earlier in the evening Rucker’s highly entertaining set proved he’s made the leap from his Hootie days to full-fledged country superstar who’s not afraid to sprinkle a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain’’ into his repertoire.
And Rucker was responsible for the night’s most surprising revelation: ’90s pop anthem “Only Wanna Be With You’’ sounds really good played on the mandolin.
James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.