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Rascal Flatts 

Alltel Arena, March 1

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Rascal Flatts may not be everybody's idea of country, but you won't get any argument from the 11,361 passionate fans on hand Saturday night for the group's electrifying show at Alltel Arena.

Rascal Flatts — lead singer Gary LeVox, bassist Jay DeMarcus and guitarist/perennial ladies' favorite Joe Don Rooney — has hit it big with pop-flavored rockers (and, frankly, more than enough sentimental — if not downright sappy — ballads) that have been a mainstay on country radio the past several years. And regardless of how you'd classify the trio's music, you can't deny their success and their ability to put on a great show.

Rascal Flatts is known for crowd-pleasing performances and soaring harmonies, and they certainly didn't disappoint.

The guys packed in plenty of music amid a spectacular exhibition of colorful special effects, lights, smoke and videos that lasted just under two hours. The crowd sang along on almost every song, from smash hits like “These Days,” “Bless the Broken Road” and “What Hurts the Most,” to those from the group's latest CD, such as “Take Me There” and “Still Feels Good.”

Along the way the guys threw in the humorous “Backwards,” about what you get when you play a country song in reverse (“Ya get your house back, ya get your dog back…”); they took turns appearing on the main stage and a smaller secondary one behind it; and LeVox escorted a little girl on stage during “My Wish.” Rooney, the lanky, blond-haired guitarist who always has female fans swooning, got to show off his skills with a pounding version of “American Woman.”

Kellie Pickler, who came to fame in 2006 as an “American Idol” contestant, opened the show with an eight-song set that was almost as tight as her faded jeans. She's a cutie who can belt 'em out, as she showed on her new single “Things That Never Cross a Man's Mind,” “Small Town Girl” and “Red High Heels.”

Pickler is a former Miss North Carolina contestant whose stage presence reminds you a little of beauty pageants, but she knows her way around country music. Her cover of Dolly Parton's “9 to 5” was a crowd-pleaser, as was the touching personal ballad “I Wonder.” “Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You” was also a fine showcase of her vocal strength.

 

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