Live Review: Rascal Flatts - Madison Square Garden, New York
Fri, 13 Feb 2009 08:31:20
Despite being located in the heart of midtown Manhattan, the fabled Madison Square Garden was transformed into Any Country Town, USA on Thursday, February 12. The New Yorkers donned their shitkickers and ten gallon hats—who knew they even had 'em—for a night of twangy country music doled out by two family-friendly artists: Jessica Simpson and Rascal Flatts. Both the audience and the artists made me feel like I was anywhere but the biggest urban metropolis on earth. Even with a capacity crowd on hand, both Simpson and Rascal Flatts emitted a cozy, comfortable warmth on an otherwise chilly, wind-bitten night.
Simpson has been battling a barrage of bad press over an unflattering pair of mom jeans that she donned a few weeks back. This evening, however, the pop-princess-turned-country-crooner looked incredibly fit and in tip-top shape, garbed in a black romper and sky-high heels that revealed that toned legs that go on for days. Her voice may not be stronger than most of her peers, but Simpson's pipes were carrying just fine (and with the assistance of a backup singer) in the world's most famous arena. Simpson opened with her loyal cover of "These Boots Were Made For Walking," before launching into new country numbers like "You're My Sunday" and "With You," during which hordes of adoring Simpsonites nearly drowned out their heroine's voice by screaming along. Clearly, the Jessica Simpson brand has suffered no ill effects from the rash of undeserved, weight-focused publicity she's endured recently. She sang in the center of the stage that extended into the crowd and was increasingly mobile while all eyes fixed on her. She also told women in abusive relationships could take their hearts and run them before belting out another heartfelt hit. The tour and Simpsons' Do You Know record should affirm her place in the country scene. "Come On Over" was the biggest crowd pleaser, and rightfully so. Simpson ended her set with the title track of her new album.
Ah, and then came Rascal Flatts. The trio and their backinh band made quite a dramatic entrance with a huge (and startling) opening explosion. Sporting studded and bejeweled jeans and button downs, the fashionable yet regular Joe guys that comprise the Flatts employed a stage that extended into the crowd at several different locations, making for quite the interactive experience, with each member moving and addressing different sections of the crowd from a variety of stairs, lifts, risers and extended platforms.
The band's rendition of "Life is a Highway" was high octane and go the audience in gear, while the fiddles and the twang of the riffs created a down-home, country-western feeling. Bassist Jay DeMarcus commented, "Who said New York didn't like country music?" and it was indeed food for thought, because tougher-than-leather NYC was all about good ole country boys on this night! DeMarcus proceeded to thrill the crowd by intimating that the Flatts were throwing a big party and they were all guests of honor! The ballad "Every Day" got the crowd swaying, while "Stand" was another mid-tempo song that spoke to the crowd, as it oozed catchy, clean cut, wholesome country rawk. Throughout, DeMarcus engaged in quite a bit of crowd chatter and he's actually quite funny, talking about short skirts and two fisting rednecks and eliciting more than a few chuckles from his throng of worshippers! He always quit at the right time, as though he had a sixth sense that his fans were hungering for another song. And that’s how it went throughout the course of the show.
By the time they band encored with "Bob That Head," the only thing that was clear was the fact that these Rascals are anything but flatliners. And a memo to the dudes: Wanna meet a girl but don’t want to do so at a bar? Go to a Rascal Flatts show because they are teeming with rows upon rows of members of the fairer sex.
— Amy Sciarretto