Shelby Lum / Lantern Photographer
Look out Braxton Miller, the Ohio State football team is getting a new quarterback next season, joked Gary LeVox, lead vocalist of Rascal Flatts, during the band’s performance at Nationwide Arena Saturday as part of its “Changed Tour.”
I had never been to a concert where the performers were as warm and engaging as the members of Rascal Flatts were. They seemed to be right at home, which could be explained by the fact that two of the band’s members are from Columbus.
LeVox and bassist Jay DeMarcus seemed thrilled to be preforming for their hometown, thanking the audience for their support and praising the Buckeyes’ 12-0 football season. Joe Don Rooney, lead guitarist, was not left out. He was named an honorary Ohioan for the day by Ohio first lady Karen Kasich. Rooney wore a buckeye-beaded necklace and joked about being an assistant coach to the football team – that is if coach Urban Meyer would let him.
Meyer and his wife Shelley shocked the audience later in the night by taking the stage to present the band with an Ohio State-themed guitar, which was decorated in scarlet and gray. Shelley Meyer seemed thrilled to be meeting the band, getting LeVox and DeMarcus to help her and Urban form the O-H-I-O toward the audience.
The show began with “Banjo,” and went on to highlight some of its greatest hits such as “Summer Nights,” “Stand” and “Life is a Highway.”
The opening song was presented in an interesting way. The stage had what appeared to be a string of lights in the formation of boxes, which flashed to the beat of the music in intricate designs. The three men emerged from inside walking toward a crowd of roaring fans.
The arena was packed, filled from the pit on the ground to the highest seats in the balcony.
Kristen Kelly and The Band Perry opened for Rascal Flatts, warming up the crowd with some of their own best works and covering some oldies as well. Kelly sang songs such as “He Loves to Make Me Cry,” and covered the song “Heartache Tonight” by the Eagles. The Band Perry got its biggest reaction from the crowd with its hit “If I Die Young,” however it also switched things up, singing parts of The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey,” Fun.’s “Some Nights” and Queen’s classic “Fat Bottom Girls.”
Rooney seemed to make all the girls in the audience swoon. Every time he approached the edge of the stage, the entire row of girls behind me squealed, and screamed if he threw them a wink. He occasionally threw guitar picks out into the crowd and had tremendous guitar solos. He had a new guitar for most songs, and one guitar had a camera attached that was positioned at an angle looking down the neck. This gave amazing visuals on the big screen behind him, giving the audience a close up of his movements.
I think most people in the audience would agree that DeMarcus was the character of the group. He was very engaging with the audience, trying to get them pumped and laughing. He did a pretty decent impersonation of Carrie Underwood, singing “Jesus Take the Wheel” and making his bandmates laugh. At one point he had LeVox laughing so hard he could barely start singing the somber song “God Bless the Broken Road.”
A highlight of the show was when an audience member requested “Sara Beth,” a song about a girl who has found out she has cancer. The band then led a little girl from the left side of the audience onto the stage and allowed her to sing a few lines. That was the most heartwarming moment of the night, and the crowd screamed for that girl as she sang those lines.
It was quite evident that Rascal Flatts felt right at home in Buckeye Nation, as the band gave an amazing performance that did not disappoint. However, I guess we’ll have to wait until next season to see if Rooney gets his dream job as assistant coach to Urban Meyer.