Rascal Flatts and Some All American Bands Invade Connecticut

Rascal Flatts
Changed Tour
Featuring Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, & Eden’s Edge
June 15, 2012 – Hartford, CT

The Rascal Flatts brought their “all band show” to Hartford, Connecticut as they kicked off their summer leg of the 2012 “Changed Tour”.  This tour is highlighted as one of the first country music concerts which exclusively had bands as the acts.  Accompanying the mega star Rascal Flatts were veterans Little Big Town, and up and comers Eli Young Band and Eden’s Edge.  Each of the bands have a unique sound, however, it was clear that no one would outshine the headliners. 

Eden’s Edge kick started the show with a short set.  The trio consists of two females and one male.  Their biggest song to date, “Amen”, seemed to resonate with the crowd as it became a nice sing-a-long for the band.  Eli Young Band was up next with a spirited set highlighted by the songs “Crazy Girl” and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”.  The band is less commercial than a lot of today’s country despite their recent radio success.  Their sound borders on country, Americana, and rock creating a very unique and likeable sound.  Little Big Town was the third opener and their forty five minute set was full of harmony and class. 

The summer anthem “Pontoon”, LBT’s newest single had the entire amphitheater dancing.  The band even covered a hillbilly rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.  This group, which has been around country music is 1998, has a great blend of harmonies between the two males and two females.  However, there were only a few sing-a-long songs for the sold out crowd.  Their music is solid, but they are still looking for that huge #1 hit.  “Pontoon” has the potential to take them to the top.  They finished their set with, arguably, their biggest song to date, “Boondocks”. 

The Rascal Flatts took the stage and it was clear they were upping the ante for the summer.  High production screens with a light show that included illuminated cubes that were constantly moving in the background made the visuals of the show extremely glamorous.  The Band, who are led by Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus, and Joe Don Rooney, have put together one of the most successful country careers in history.  On that night in Hartford, they brought out all of their hits, new and old, and had the place jumping. 

The Flatts started out of the gate with full energy as they opened with their recent #1 and country anthem, “Banjo”.  They followed it up with possibly their most raucous song, “Bob That Head”.  At that point the trio was off and running as they pumped out hit after hit.  

The cubes in the background, as you can see in the photos, really added to the production of the show.  The cubes were constantly moving and changing colors throughout.  Gary LeVox moved around the stage pretty much non-stop and belted out notes that only he can hit.  Especially on songs such as “What Hurts The Most” and “Untouchable”, the notes LeVox was able to hit, no doubt, gave the sold out crowd goosebumps. 

At one point, Jay DeMarcus stated the Band was going to take requests from the crowd and he seemed to pretend to ask fans to give them requests.  This seemed a bit fabricated because the songs they then performed turned out to be some of their biggest hits.  Nonetheless, it was great to hear “Praying For Daylight”, “Mayberry”, and “Sarabeth”. 

During “Life Is A Highway”, the screen became a Nascar track with Disney’s “Cars” racing behind them.  LeVox seemed to greatly enjoy that song and the production behind him as he seemed to be at his most active on stage, which is saying a lot. 

The set included a great mix of ballads and party tunes.  During the ballads, LeVox’s vocals thundered in the night as the stage illuminated with stars and blue lights.  During the high energy songs, such as “Me & My Gang”, Rooney and DeMarcus came to the forefront with their instrument playing and joined LeVox as the stars of the show.  The three men really feed off of each other and there is no jealousy displayed from any of the members. 

The show concluded with a cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An All American Band” as the Flatts welcomed Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, and Eden’s Edge to the stage. 

It really was a great sight to see all four bands on stage at the same time and trading vocals back and forth.  The harmony that proceeded with each of the bands was stunning.  I would love to hear the four of them record this song and release it as a single. 

Overall the show was excellent and I am always a bit taken aback at how big of a following the Rascal Flatts have.  The streets were flooded with cars and traffic and the arena was filled with fans of young and old.  The All-American Bands really shined bright on the opening night in Hartford, Connecticut. 

SETLIST:

  1. Banjo
  2. Bob That Head
  3. Fast Cars and Freedom
  4. Play A Country Song
  5. Each Day
  6. Here Comes Tonight
  7. Hot In Here
  8. Sarabeth
  9. Praying For Daylight
  10. All About the Sunset
  11. Mayberry
  12. Why Wait
  13. Broken Heart
  14. Life Is a Highway
  15. Feels Like Today
  16. Every Day
  17. Summer Nights
  18. Me & My Gang
  19. Come Wake Me Up
  20. What Hurts the Most
  21. Unstoppable
  22. All American Band (Grand Funk Railroad Cover performed with Little Big Town, Eli Young Band, and Eden’s Edge)

VIDEOS:

Intro & Banjo
Me & My Gang
Why Wait
Mayberry
Born This Way
Boondocks
Pontoon


Dierks Bentley Feels at Home in New York City

Dierks Bentley
Country & Cold Cans Tour
featuring Jerrod Niemann and Eli Young Band
Irving Plaza, New York City
October 21, 2011

Dierks Bentley brought his Country & Cold Cans Tour to the Big Apple for two nights this October.  I was in attendance for the second of the two shows and you could tell he felt right at home.  Last year he had a four night residency in NYC, playing a few different venues while promoting his Bluegrass album “Up on the Ridge”.  I attended two of those shows as well as two of his shows on the Jagermeister Tour, one of which he brought me and my wife up on stage (see http://www.countrymusicislove.com/2011/03/fan-story-ryan-amy-dierks-bentley.html ) – so I am very familiar with how Dierks operates.  Tonight was no different, if anything, he took the decible level up one more notch.

Upon arriving at the Iriving Plaza, located in the heart of Union Square NYC, there was a line wrapped in front of the building and around which went on for another three blocks.  It was a quite a site to see so many hyped up country fans dressed in boots, plaid shirts, and trucker hats lined up on the streets of NYC.  The first act on the bill was the Eli Young Band.  I must admit I did not think I knew many of their songs, but once their set was off and running, I was quite familiar with most of their tunes. 

Their lead singer has a great voice and their songs are full of memories from their hometown.  Songs such as “When It Rains”, “Only the Love Songs”, and “Crazy Girl” have had a decent rotation on country radio and were very impressive live.  The band is not flashy, but not at all dull, not down home country, but not hipster – their look was very similar to their music.  I look forward to seeing them again and buying their cd collection as well.

Next up was Jerrod Niemann.  I had purchased Judge Jerrod’s cd the day it came out large in part for his remake hit of “Lover, Lover”, but this was the first time I have been able to see him live.  And he did not disappoint in the least.  He was extremely energetic and dynamic.  The crowd really responded and the New York City venue started to transform into a Nashville Honky-Tonk. 

Jerrod Niemann has a very strange look.  He has long messy hair and wears a very different hat compared to most country singers and he backed by a band mixed with predominately older gentlemen that had people raising their eye-brows.  Nonetheless, people must learn to not judge a book by its cover, because the Judge and his Jury (as he referred to them) could rock. 

He sang many of his songs off his cd including “What Do You Want”, “One More Drinking Song” and “Lover, Lover” and threw in a blues song by Stevie Ray Vaughn “Pride and Joy” and Garth Brooks’ “Good Ride Cowboy”, which Jerrod actually wrote for him.  Jerrod was high energy with a lot of drinking songs and interaction with the crowd.  He was at his best when he had just the microphone in his hand and was up in the front of the stage.  I look for big things from him in the future and really was impressed by his set.

After a brief intermission, the lights went low and the crowd started to scream.  Dierks has created quite a love affair with New York City after his four night stand last year and his double night run this Fall.  Of course, the Will Ferrell impersonator was in attendance (if you attended last year’s shows you know what I am talking about) and I saw a lot of familiar faces from the past NYC shows. 

Dierks hopped on stage and ripped into a new song called “Country Cold Cans” which is a high energy song with a lot of country references (from pick up trucks to trucker hats).  I expect this song will be on his upcoming album which is rumored to have a winter 2012 release. 

Irving Plaza was absolutely jammed packed while Dierks was on stage and people were going crazy during his set.  Dierks has a patented move where jumps straight up and down on stage and the crowd responded by bouncing up and down with him each and every time he hopped.  He brought out his full catalog of hits from “Feel That Fire” to “Every Mile a Memory” to “Sideways” and his energy level was at an all time high.

To my delight, he even sang a few songs off his bluegrass album such as “Up On the Ridge” and “Bottle to the Bottom” and sang a few new songs, entitled “5 1 5 0” and his newest single “Home”.  “Home” is a patriotic song, not in the flag waving way, but more of an ode to America and its natural beauty.  He was very controlled and passionate during this song and the crowd responded with a slew of “U S A” chants upon its finish. 

I have seen a countless number of country music concerts and Dierks is as good of a performer as anyone out there.  He has a natural interaction and energy that gives him a fun-loving vibe.  His career path is a bit confusing because he has the hits and persona to fill arenas, but yet he seems to stick to the mid-sized ballroom type venues.  I would love to see Dierks’ label allow him to embark on an Arena tour, he would have no problem selling well. 

Dierks finished off his encore with his two biggest hits to date “Free and Easy” and “What Was I Thinking” and the crowd applauded him for what seemed like ten minutes.  Dierks was overwhelmed with the applause and bowed with his band multiple times.  The speakers then played “Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphy’s and the entire crowd began to jump straight up and down “Dierks-style” and he, of course, responded as you would expect. 

On this night, in New York City, you could tell Dierks felt comfortable as if it was a second Home.  I expect him to keep coming back to the Big Apple as he really seems to have a great time on stage during his shows here.  Dierks, we await your new cd and cannot wait to have you back in the City that never sleeps. 

Setlists:

Jerrod Niemann

1) How Can I Be So Thirsty
2) Down In Mexico
3) Baseball Song
4) Good Ride Cowboy
5) What Do You Want
6) Buckin’ Song
7) Pride & Joy
8) Get What You Deserve
9) Everclear
10) Lover, Lover

Dierks Bentley

1) Country Cold Cans
2) Feel That Fire
3) Am I The Only One (with an extra verse)
4) Every Mile a Memory
5) Tried to Stop Your Leaving
6) Sideways
7) 5 1 5 0
8) Tried To Stop Your Leaving
9) How Am I Doing
10) Up On the Ridge
11) Bottle to the Bottom
12) Home
13) Lot of Leaving Left To Do
14) Come a Little CLoser
Encore:
15) Wish You Were Here
16) Free and Easy Down the Road I Go
17) What Was I Thinking

VIDEOS:

Dierks Bentley – “Home”
Dierks Bentley: “Up On The Ridge”

Dierks Bentley – “Am I The Only One”
Jerrod Niemann – “One More Drinking Song”
Dierks Bentley – “What Was I Thinking”