Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans and Hunter Hayes at the Roanoke Civic Center: Friday, January 13, 2012

Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans and Hunter Hayes at the Roanoke Civic Center
January 13, 2012

     I have to admit that we went to this concert knowing really very little about Rascal Flatts and nothing about Hunter Hayes.  We have seen Sara Evans a couple of times before with Brad Paisley, so we were confident that she would give a great performance.  Well, we left unabashed Rascal Flatts fanatics.  They were superb.  From their opening percussion assault they had the audience captivated.  Their stage set was awesome, highlighted by a giant high definition board back-drop.  Rascal Flatts consists of three very talented individuals, the combination of which somehow far exceeds their individual abilities.  Their vocal harmonies are impeccable, their command of multiple instruments impressive and their dominant stage presence was extraordinary.  They went through their  11 years of hits and one new single (“Banjo”), some in extended versions and some as part of medleys.  A funny thing happened in the middle of their amazing show.  They played a three song group, each of which highlighted one individual. Jay DeMarcus, who mainly plays bass, opened this mini-set playing Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” on a beautiful white grand piano.  Guitarist Joe Don Rooney then lit up his white Gibson Les Paul playing Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “The House is Rockin’”.   Vocal leader Gary LeVox’ thrilling rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” capped off this virtuoso set.   The interesting thing to me about Rascal Flatts is that even though each individual is extremely talented and could front a band on their own, they sublimate their individual egos to the band.  This may be a façade, but they have constructed their performance to showcase each individual here and there, but they seem to understand and relish the uniqueness and specialness of the group dynamic.   I had no idea these guys were this talented and versatile.  Gary LeVox, in particular, is a pro.  He had the entire arena following his every move. With the exception of Mick Jagger, I can’t remember when I have seen anyone completely capture an audience like he did.  He is completely absorbed in his performance, delivering his unique vocals to the accompaniment of the appropriate hand and facial expressions, dance moves and engaging interactions with the audience.   I think everyone left the Roanoke Civic Center in a sense of awe and appreciation for Rascal Flatts.  If you ever have the opportunity to see one of their live performances: DO IT!  You won’t be disappointed.

     Sara Evans played an hour long set consisting of many songs from her newest CD “Stronger” and sprinkled in some of her older hits (“Suds in the Bucket” and “Born to Fly” being particularly well received).  The song which brought the biggest reaction was “Stonger”, probably because most in the audience were well aware of her difficult domestic situations over the past several years.   Her band provided excellent instrumental back-up and they ended their portion of the show with a rousing rendition of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me”.  It was, all in all, a very well done performance which, unfortunately, sort of got lost after the force of nature known as Rascal Flatts blasted onto the stage.

      Newcomer Hunter Hayes opened the show with a brief but entertaining set highlighted by his own compositions “Somebody’s Heartbreak” (which really is a very good song) and current top 15 hit “Storm Warning”. 

     All in all, this was an outstanding show, one which I am very glad we were able to attend and one I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in pop music performance, not just country music.

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