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Rascal Flatts gets groups going at country fest

Rascal Flatts (above, at the 2012 CMA Music Festival) headlined the annual Country 102.5 festival Saturday at the Comcast Center. (Wade Payne / Invision / AP) Rascal Flatts (above, at the 2012 CMA Music Festival) headlined the annual Country 102.5 festival Saturday at the Comcast Center.
By Scott McLennan
Globe Correspondent / June 18, 2012
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MANSFIELD — Even as popular country music gets wilder and brasher, Rascal Flatts remain nice guys, the ones who will wipe away tears, offer encouragement, and raise a little heck — no cussin’, please.

Rascal Flatts headlined the annual Country 102.5 festival Saturday at the Comcast Center. Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, Edens Edge, and Jon Pardi were also on a bill that highlighted the power of a group versus the prowess of a solo superstar.

With its new album and tour, Rascal Flatts is reinforcing the sound and style that sparked its popularity a decade ago. While markedly different from the beach country and bad-boy country that is more dominant today, Rascal Flatts did not sound dated. It helped that the band surrounded itself with like-minded acts, reclaiming a bit of turf for smooth Nashville pop. Its set was an 80-minute no-turbulence zone of radio hits such as “Bless the Broken Road,” “Me and My Gang,” and fresh contenders such as “Banjo.”

Pardi kicked off the day with bar-band swagger on a side stage where he led his group through David Lee Murphy’s “Party Crowd” and Tom Petty’s “American Girl” amid his originals.

After a 90-minute lull, the festival resumed with Edens Edge, a pop-inflected vocal group that sparked some interest at last year’s festival with a backwoods pop. This year the band sounded too gimmicky, wasting most of it short set with several cover-song snippets ranging from Katy Perry to Jason Aldean hits, burying its own “Amen” and “Skinny Dippin’.”

The Eli Young Band had no such stumbles, shuffling ballads and mid-tempo twang in a methodical buildup to the big hit “Crazy Girl.”

Little Big Town offered the night’s most diverse set. With four strong and stylistically different singers out front, Little Big Town shifted from big harmony numbers such as “Boondocks” to solo and duet outings that showcased the four leads in various settings. The fleshed-out seven-piece band went to town with a hillbilly arrangement of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”

Rascal Flatts didn’t go out on such limbs. Outside its own songbook, the group stuck to its well-received cover of “Life Is a Highway” and an encore blowout of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band” that gathered all of the night’s performers. Both cases were safe, dependable crowd pleasers.

Scott McLennan can be reached at smclennan1010@gmail.com.

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Music review

Country 102.5

Country Music Festival

with Rascal Flatts,

Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, and others

At: Comcast Center, Saturday