Rascal Flatts' annual September stop at First Niagara Pavilion is a bittersweet occasion. They bring one of the summer's glitziest tours to the region. However, it commences the wind-down of the outdoor concert season.
But what a way to begin the end on Friday night. The Ohio trio — guitarist Joe Don Rooney, singer Gary LeVox and bassist Jay DeMarcus — teamed up with The Band Perry for an electrifying evening packed with chart-topping hits and a few choice covers.
After a dramatic countdown, the Flatts opened with a cover of Tom Cochrane's "Life Is A Highway" that Mr. Rooney scorched with a Les Paul. The stage featured five video screens and an impressive lighting display shaped like the Guggenheim.
Mr. LeVox's nasally tenor, one of country's most recognizable voices, more than did justice to the early Bruno Mars cover of "When I Was Your Man"; the show really hit stride when he belted out "This Everyday Love." He was full of quips and local references all night, tailoring lyrics to Pittsburgh to the delight of the packed venue.
The band is considered as much pop as country. Indeed, the atmosphere bucks the country stereotype. With one of the most devoted fan bases around, there is little drinking and rowdiness but a lot of enthusiastic sing along and young children.
Mr. Rooney and Mr. DeMarcus are both accomplished multi-instrumentalists and showcased their talents on a mid-set sit-down medley that included a high octane duet of "Easy" with opener and season three winner of NBC's "The Voice" Cassadee Pope. The rousing encore closed fittingly with "Summer Nights."
Led by charismatic blonde bombshell Kimberly Perry, The Band Perry is as rock as it is country. "If I Die Young" featured the audience singing the verses unaccompanied by the band. The best numbers featured brothers Neil and Reid on guitar and mandolin.
"We are a sibling group. We spend 23 hours a day getting on each other's nerves in a tour bus. This is the only time we have to cut loose," she said.
Ms. Pope bears more than a passing physical and vocal resemblance to superstar Martina McBride and was enthusiastically received in a typically apathetic time slot.musicreviews
Michael Rampa is a freelance writer.