Editor’s note: Rascal Flatts appeared Saturday (Sept. 29) at clubs in Atlanta and Chicago during the close of a six-day promotional tour that included events sponsored by country radio stations.
ATLANTA — Joe Don Rooney, Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus were up early Saturday morning (Sept. 29) to celebrate the release of Rascal Flatts’ fifth album, Still Feels Good.
WKHX and WYAY, two of Atlanta’s country radio stations, teamed up with Wild Bill’s, a country music bar in nearby Duluth, Ga., to host a listening party and give radio contest winners a chance to get up-close and personal with the reigning ACM and CMA vocal group of the year. The Georgia stop, which also included an afternoon performance for listeners of WUBL in Atlanta, was one of several appearances the trio made at station-sponsored events during the past week. The radio tour ended Saturday night in Chicago following appearances in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Dallas, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.
At Wild Bill’s, fans previewed the album before being treated to a question-and-answer session with the band. It proved to be both informative and entertaining, with the listeners learning that Rooney keeps in touch with his wife via the iChat video program on their computers while he’s on the road. LeVox said he has enjoyed a 12-year friendship with actor-musician Jamie Foxx, who sings with them on “She Goes All the Way,” a track from Still Feels Good. And it turns out that DeMarcus is a John Mayer fan and does a dead-on impression of CSI: Miami’s David Caruso.
Coincidentally, tickets for their Oct. 19 show at the Philips Arena in Atlanta went on sale less than two hours before their local appearance and sold more than 10,000 seats in that short time frame.
Out of necessity, their Still Feels Good tour has required them to become more selective than ever in choosing the songs they’ll perform each night. Their massive inventory of hits has become so substantial, the set list was thinned out a bit. Playing off each other comically as well as musically, DeMarcus told the Atlanta fans how they made the decision.
“Gary pretty much takes out the ones that Joe Don and I have written,” DeMarcus said.
“And/or sing,” Rooney chimed in.
“That whittles the show down a bit,” DeMarcus laughed.
In the voice of an elderly man, LeVox joked, “These young ’uns over here are trying to get the spotlight!”
Minutes later, the real spotlight was waiting as the group strolled onto the empty stage that was soon engulfed by a crowd of screaming, jumping and waving fans. All polished and dressed casually hip, the band members took their seats on barstools with LeVox in the middle. The vast space of the club seemed to absorb the audience as most of the fans were packed in tight against the stage as the band kicked off their acoustic set with “Fast Cars and Freedom.”
After thanking the crowd, DeMarcus announced, “This is one of our favorites.” He then caught everyone — including his bandmates — off guard as he busted into Rick Springfield’s classic, “Jessie’s Girl.” This happened two more times during the 40-minute segment, with the crowd encouraging him each time.
Interweaving new and old music with laid-back banter, they went on to play “Winner at a Losing Game,” a ballad from the new album. Taking audience requests, “My Wish” and “What Hurts the Most” followed and essentially became crowd singalongs for the room full of contest winners.
During “Take Me There,” their current No. 1 single, LeVox channeled the song’s co-writer, Kenny Chesney. While his bandmates accompanied him, LeVox had his own agenda, adding lyrics from Chesney’s hits, including “How Forever Feels,” into the hit song he offered to them. The joke resulted in laughter and a sea of smiling faces.
Musically naked without their full band and staging, Rascal Flatts showed off their talents in a raw, stripped-down style and proved, once and for all, why it still feels good.