Sun 7 September

[LIVE REVIEW] Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - 6 September

Rascal Flatts, Sheryl Crow bring Pavilion season to happy finish

By Scott Mervis
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Rascal Flatts doesn't make any apologies for being poster boys of pop country.

The trio from Columbus embraced it even more than usual Saturday night, closing out the summer season at the First Niagara Pavilion by bringing along pop legend Sheryl Crow, dropping in some Pharrell Williams and even kicking out some hair metal.

The Crow part was a questionable choice, as she makes herself a tough act to follow. She arrived with a version of "All I Wanna Do" that sounded less Santa Monica Boulevard than Broadway Street in Nashville with a pedal steel twang and a knockout band she picked up in her adopted hometown.

Seeing no place for herself in the pop world, she's joined many of her peers in making that country move, but she's done it ever so subtly.

No Southern accent for the Missouri girl, just more steel in the guitars, a more downhome feel, and that stellar voice.

Despite releasing an album for Warner Nashville, the sunny pop star, looking great at 52, didn't make it the focus. She offered the country-soul ballad "Give it to Me," with a vocal channeling Janis, and chugged through the honky tonk of "Best of Times," blowing a surprisingly mean bluesy harp. She also made a tasteful choice of the somber "Redemption Day," employing a video segment of Johnny Cash, who covered it very late in life.

She ended with a run of hits a Sheryl Crow fan would want to hear, with "If It Makes You Happy," "Soak Up the Sun" and "Everyday Is a Winding Road," again adding more sweet layers to the strings.

Rascal Flatts hit a few bumps on the highway this tour, with frontman Gary LeVox having to scrap some shows due to vocal troubles.

Fortunately for the Pavilion fans, he's worked his way through that, and on Saturday he was back to hitting the high notes male country singers don't often reach -- or necessarily want to.

Touring on the new album, "Rewind" -- not the retro project it might sound like -- Rascal Flatts took the stage with splash of pyro and the funky new rocker "Payback," which makes for a good kickoff. From there

it was a 100-minute set filled with summery hits and a touch of power-ballad heartbreak. With its easy-going sing-song melodies and tried-and-true arrangements, Rascal Flatts is after all the ideal band for people who don't care for hard edges on their music.

After that funky start, Mr. LeVox and partners Joe Don Rooney (guitarslinger) and Jay DeMarcus (bassist) quickly settled into the core midtempo love songs -- "Here Comes Goodbye," "What Hurts the Most," "Fast Cars and Freedom" -- that get the girls singing along.

The frontman took it to church on "Bless the Broken Road," a song that was definitely speaking to him, along with a good many fans.

Midway, it turned into a something of a variety show. Mr. DeMarcus did a comedy bit about girls in Daisy Dukes and a thanks to the fans for 14 years, leading into an impressive doo-wop interlude of "Love You Out Loud" and Pharrell's "Happy." A playful Crow reappeared to let them sit in for Kid Rock on an unplugged "Picture" and she stayed around to soar on "My Wish."

From there, Rascal Flatts did it's best summer send-off with "Summer Nights," new song "DJ Tonight," and "Life is a Highway," which had Ohio boys waving a Terrible Towel and yelling "Go Steelers!"

If that was strange enough, the last sound heard at the First Niagara Pavilion was an explosion and Rascal Flatts doing justice to Motley Crue's "Kickstart My Heart."

Photo: jesvonc



All I Wanna Do
Real Gone
Can't Cry Anymore
Give it to Me
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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