Rascal Flatts. The musical act who, until a few short weeks ago, I thought was a rapper
What do you do when someone offers you a free ticket for a band – the aforementioned Rascal Flatts – you’ve never heard before? I mean I’ve turned down free tickets before, notably to see The Corrs (after all, I had heard their music) and U2 (well, you know, Bono). But gigs in America are usually a big event due to the fact that just about any moderately-talented band can attract about half the state to massive venues.
I did a little research. Rascal Flatts are three blokes, play country, have a string of platinum albums and are very popular with the 10-12 year old demographic – High School Musical, Justin Bieber, John Cena, that sort of thing.
And having never even heard a song before I decided to fly blind (deaf?) rather than potentially spoil the surprise and anticipation of hearing the majesty of their music for the first time.
Let’s cut to the chase. It was like a flipping playground there. Thousands of teen and pre-teen girls confidently strutting around in cowboy boots, with cut-off denim shorts to their pubis and perfect, matching tans that you’d swear came straight from a bottle. This was in marked contrast to the awkward strut of their male counterparts, desperately trying to put their best foot forward but hamstrung by confused cross-genre haircuts, acne and an uncertainty as to how far they should push their chest out in order to look manly.
The organisers do attempt to stop underage people drinking by issuing “over 21″ wrist bands to anyone with valid ID – and by pricing a pint at $13. It wasn’t 100% successful as a number of fairly young people looked a little worse for wear; one blonde girl falling on her arse in front of us and getting to her feet with blood pouring down her leg. But if someone wants booze they’ll get it – and it’s a rite of passage so we should probably let them get it out of their system.
After several warm up acts, the best of which was the Eli Young Band (a relative assessment), the headliners came out. Joe Don Rooney, Jay DeMarcus and Gary LeVox (Gerald Wayne Vernon might be the only person in the world whose stage name is worse than his real name) launched in to a short 80 minute set that was everything I expected – a steady string of middle-of-the-road country anthems and ballads.
LeVox was notable for being quite unremarkable – capable voice but little charisma or stage presence (outside of his stout frame). Rooney was the best thing on the stage and I was only ever interested when he was allowed to let loose and play some lead licks. If this lot hit the skids then he could be the breakout Robbie Williams of the band.
Of course safe, unit-shifting music like this was never going to be my scene. They all seem like nice boys, especially Rooney (whose wife is a former Miss Georgia, Miss USA and Playmate of the Year): “We’re Christian men with families and children and with deep faith in God and country”. And they underlined how thoughtful they are by issuing the honourable trumpet call of “God bless America!” near the end, inadvertently forgetting about blessing the other 6.7 billion people on the planet, a percentage of whom buy their records.
Bland, tedious multi-platinum musicians. Yep, Rascal Flatts are the Nickelback of country music.