Rascal Flatts' Gary LeVox   
Star Tribune photo by Kyndell Harkness 
 
Here are the main reasons why Friday’s concert at the Xcel Energy Center was the best Rascal Flatts’ concert in the Twin Cities:
* Because this concert was being shot for a network TV special, lead singer Gary LeVox was not on AutoPilot, for a change. As I said in my review, he was looser, more enthusiastic and lighter on his feet than ever before. Plus, he was in excellent voice.
* The unadvertised Natasha Bedingfield added a spark by wailing with LeVox on “Easy.” Think they’ll edit some of that footage into a future music video clip? Too bad her high-end British fashion sense clashed with RF’s JC Penney couture.
* For a change, Rascal Flatts didn’t give 23 gratuitous, cheesy shoutouts to St. Paul, Minneapolis, Twin Cities or Minnesota.
* Almost all of the 12,000 fans waved glow sticks (that were passed out at the entry gates) during “Bless the Broken Road.” Cheesy but probably a good TV effect that we’ll appreciate on the hourlong ABC special on March 12.
*“ I Won’t Let Go,” the trio’s new single, impressed as a stately pop ballad with a “Bridge Over Troubled Water” piano undercurrent as if played by Elton John.
* The sound was rich and clean (that’s what three days of setup and rehearsal will do) and, as always, the staging and visuals were creative and flashy without being overkill.
However, the show begged for stronger opening acts. Chris Young had a nice deep voice but Luke Bryan had dubious material. “We Rode in Trucks” is the most banal country song I’ve heard in a while. What's up with inserting part of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” in Bryan’s own hit “All My Friends Say” ?The only cool thing he did was ad lib an extra line at the end of the trite, cliched “That’s What Country Is” –“country is coming to a Rascal Flatts show when it’s 26 degrees below zero outside.”
Rascal Flatts set list:
Bob That Head/ Prayin’ for Daylight/ Everyday Love/ I’m Movin On/These Days/ Mayberry/ Feels Like Today/ I Won’t Let Go/ Fast Cars and Freedom/ Here’s to You/ snippets of a gospel song/ Take It to the Limit (Eagles)/ Open Arms (Journey)/ Old Time Rock n Roll (Bob Seger)/ Bless the Broken Road / Easy (with Natasha Bedingfield)/ Backwards (band instrumental/ What Hurts the Most/ Why Wait/ Me and My Gang/ Take Me There/ Unstoppable > Star Spangled Banner (guitar instrumental, Jimi Hendrix style)/ Life Is a Highway ENCORE animated film called Foreplay/ Long time (Boston)/ Carry On, My Wayward Son (Kansas)/ Free Ride (Edgar Winter)/ Summer Nights