Rascal Flatts entertained with futuristic eye candy, and their harmonies were impressive, but the excitement arrived late.
Disney rocks! Well, weve probably never thought of it that way. But the House of Mickey Mouse flexed its musical muscles this week in the Twin Cities.
Last Sunday, Disney Channel princess Miley Cyrus did her Hannah Montana thing at sold-out Target Center. On Saturday night, Rascal Flatts, the steadiest seller in the Disney Music Group and country musics best-selling group, filled Xcel Energy Center once again.
If Mileys concert seemed like it was presented on one big TV production stage, Rascal Flatts show seemed like it was an elaborate theme-park set from perhaps Tomorrowland. The five sidemen dressed like Star Wars aliens (the keyboardist was in a Darth Vader outfit), and a bridge floated down from the rafters so the trio that is Rascal Flatts could walk back and forth between two stages: a small, revolving platform in the center of the arena and a mammoth stage, lit from within, featuring a T-shaped runway in front and a catwalk in back that was wider than the stage. Videos and colorful lights patterns were projected on the stage, on three giant cubes hanging from the ceiling and on a jaggedly shaped giant video screen behind the stage. The futuristic eye candy was essential because it provided the kind of the excitement that the trio did not until the final third of the 100-minute show.
To be sure, the six-song set on the small stage was intimate and musically satisfying if you like Rascal Flatts sweet, harmony-heavy pop ballads. Plus, Jay DeMarcus managed a nice little jazzy keyboard journey at the end of Yes I Do, and Joe Don Rooneys solo electric guitar rendition of Over the Rainbow, as he walked over the bridge to the big stage, was eloquent and compelling.
But on the big stage, Rascal Flatts, countrys biggest band and the biggest album-selling act in any genre in 2006, lacked the energy and spark for too long to make this show into a Saturday night party that ranks with Kenny Chesneys or Toby Keiths excellent Xcel efforts. The only early fun was when DeMarcus broke into James Browns I Got You (I Feel Good), complete with fancy dancing a la the Godfather of Soul. Even Rooneys muscular guitar work on Stand couldnt make it stand out. One of the loudest reactions was for a frantic but gratuitous fiddle solo before the rambunctious Backwards, which makes fun of country-music cliches.
That workout seemed to turn the show around. Thereafter, the soulful rocker Still Feels Good, the title track of the trios fifth and current CD, felt good. The force of lead singer Gary LeVoxs voice harmonizing with Rooney and DeMarcus was unstoppable on What Hurts the Most. The crowd of 17,000 went wild when nine U.S. Marines marched onstage during the religious-themed He Aint the Leaving Kind and then Rascal Flatts broke into the chorus of Journeys Dont Stop Believing.
The encore of Heres To You was fittingly festive for a Saturday night. And then Rascal Flatts, spurred by Rooneys soaring guitar, tore it on a rip-roaring Life Is a Highway, an old rock hit that the country trio recorded for Cars, a movie affiliated with - you guessed it - the Disney world.
For set list and fan comments, go to www.startribune.com/poplife Jon Bream 612-673-1719