Rascal Flatts Changed Tour 2012

Kentucky State Fair

Freedom Hall, August 18, 2012

By Michael W. Stout

Inarguably, attending a live performance by a band differs greatly from attending a solo artist's performance, introducing a somewhat chaotic good time for the listener. Due simply to the fact of a myriad of spotlighted men and women on stage simultaneously, there is a array of activity, with each band member moving in various directions around the stage, not to mention the opportunity for more stage banter between each member, plus a melting pot of different personalities to shine through. The concertgoer is constantly in for surprises of how each bandmate will feed off one another, offering an individual live musical experience. When Rascal Flatts brought their Changed Tour 2012 to the Kentucky State Fair on Saturday, August 18, fans were treated to a near four-hour extravaganza, featuring fellow country bands Little Big Town, Eli Young Band and Edens Edge. With a common thread of patriotism, faith, family and love stitched throughout all four sets, the finale summed the night up perfectly when Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus, and Joe Don Rooney tore into "We're An American Band," bringing out Little Big Town on the chorus, followed by Eli Young Band and eventually Edens Edge. By the time the stage lights were extinguished for the final time of the evening, all fourteen members of these American country music bands had joined to send the fans home with vivid memories of an incredibly diverse and entertaining show.

Although the Flatts' stage production has seemed to have shrunk along with everyone's bank account during the recession, the trio still managed to deliver a musically stimulating and visually entertaining ninety-plus minute set. Needless to say, the boys offered new material from their latest album, titled Change, including their current single "Come Wake Me Up," "Hot in Here" and their most recent #1, "Banjo." With such a catalog of radio-friendly tunes, LeVox begged the fans not to send them hate mail for not singing all their hits, so they delivered smash hits like "Life Is a Highway," "Me and My Gang," "God Bless the Broken Road" and "What Hurts the Most" and took fan requests to sang snippets of other hits. like "Mayberry" and "Prayin' for Daylight." Rooney's lead guitar playing was in tip-top shape and DeMarcus really delivered on bass and keyboards, as well as a heaping helping of comic relief, but unfortunately LeVox seemed to be struggling to hit the mark on lead vocals, possibly due to low volume on his microphone, which muddled the lyrics.

Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook, who make up the quartet Little Big Town, are known for their amazing four-part harmony and offered rousing renditions of their infectiously fun "Little White Church" and "Boondocks," as well as their current top 5 summer anthem, "Pontoon." With the impending September 11 release of their fifth album, Tornado, LBT offered fans some much grittier numbers with tunes such as the title track, "Sober" and :On Your Side of the Bed." If the enthusiastic reception of these new songs is any indication, this quartet may be on the brink of breaking through to the next level of country superstardom that they so deserve. Fans were treated to a reprieve from the deep themes on the new material when the band brought the house down with a down-home, countrified, foot-stomping cover of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," a version that could find a permanent home on country radio.

The Eli Young Band's powerful six-song set proved that they belong in country music. The tight band offered seamless performances of tunes like "Skeletons," "Small Town Kid" their first #1 "Crazy Girl" and their recently crowned second #1 hit, "Even If It Breaks Your Heart." Unfortunately hampered by very poor sound quality, Edens Edge displayed great potential during their brief set which included their latest single, "Too Good to Be True," as well as their breakout single, "Amen."