When Rascal Flatts took the stage Saturday, fans had no trouble finding them—just go ‘til you hear a banjo. From the first pluck of the string, the trio threw the audience into a backwoods bash. Though no barn was available to host the party, Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus, and Joe Don Rooney easily countrified the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre for their Changed Tour 2012.
The night kicked off with the twangy “Banjo” and fitting “Summer Nights,” amping up the rowdy sea of cowboy hats and plaid shirts filling the first row of the pavilion to the top of the lawn.
The list of sing-alongs piled higher when lead vocalist LeVox belted out hits from the early 2000s “Fast Cars and Freedom” and “These Days.” The band then jumped to the present with current single “Come Wake Me Up.”
Following the brief slowdown, the show heated back up with another track off the Flatts’ recently released album Changed called “Hot In Here.” The hook-filled tune had everyone echoing the lyrics as if it had been on radio for years.
After a pair of new songs, the trio acknowledged that some fans leave shows upset because their favorites didn’t make the set list. To fix this problem, they asked for requests from the crowd. Four shouts from the pavilion seats caught the attention of the Flatts boys for shortened impromptu performances of “I Melt,” “My Wish,” “Mayberry,” and “Stand.”
Once the welcome diversion from the set list ended, the concert continued with the infectious tale of popping the question “Why Wait,” in which LeVox further showcased his unmatched powerhouse voice. But bass player Jay DeMarcus took over the spotlight when he sat alone with a keyboard and crooned a portion of the classic “Lean On Me.”
DeMarcus’ music brothers rejoined him on stage for their Grammy-winning “Bless the Broken Road.” It may have been a number-one hit back in 2005, but the audience’s reaction implied it still topped the charts.
Now that LeVox and DeMarcus had their chances to display their abilities solo, it was Joe Don Rooney’s turn. He pounded on one of his many electric guitars for an earth-shattering piece of pure talent. The guitar ace masterfully rocked an extended intro to “Me and My Gang” before the rest of his band returned to finish up the song.
The fast-pace rolled on with the feel-good cover from Disney’s Cars soundtrack “Life Is A Highway.” Those in attendance surely wanted to ride the highway all night long with Rascal Flatts as the driver.
The trio expressed their appreciation for the fans’ enthusiastic support in “Here’s to You,” exclaiming “you’re the heart and soul and the reason we do what we do, here’s to you.” Their extreme gratitude was evident throughout the lyrics.
The high-octane nature of the night halted for the emotional account of lost love in “What Hurts the Most.” The tight harmonies, expressive music, and passion in the group’s eyes combined for a heart-rending delivery.
For the final performance, Rascal Flatts invited their opening acts back to the stage for their version of the 1970s hard rock smash “We’re an American Band.” Little Big Town, the Eli Young Band, and Edens Edge helped the main act close the show with the same intensity it began with.
With soulful voices, electrifying on-stage energy, and country charm, Rascal Flatts showed Chicago why they’re one of the hottest touring groups. The Changed Tour 2012 is the perfect way to spend a summer night. If you’ve had enough of the concrete jungle, just go ‘til you hear Rascal Flatts strumming a banjo.
Review by Kelly O’Brien, Summer 2012 Marketing/Promotions Department Intern at US99.5, and a journalism major at Bradley University.