Rascal Flatts still at its peak in popularity

08/08/2013 4:14 PM

08/08/2013 4:15 PM

Give Rascal Flatts credit for taking chances. Back in 2006, the country band decided to work up a version of Tom Cochrane’s straight-ahead rocker “Life Is a Highway” for the Pixar film “Cars.”

It was yet another big hit for the band. It was fitting that Rascal Flatts, while on a two-date co-headlining run with Journey, launched its set Sunday in Atlantic City with “Life Is a Highway.” It was the start of an energetic, fiery set from a band with the Midas touch.

When Rascal Flatts performs Friday at the Intrust Bank Arena, don’t expect Journey, but plan for an evening full of familiar tunes. The trio impressed in the East Coast casino mecca with “Summer Nights,” “Me and My Gang” and “Bless the Broken Road.”

Gary LeVox, who has one of the best voices in country music, nailed the tunes while being backed by guitarist-vocalist Joe Don Rooney and bassist-vocalist Jay DeMarcus. The band’s gorgeous harmonies and pop-country amalgam set Rascal Flatts apart from its peers.

Rascal Flatts has been one of the most consistent and successful country acts of this era. Seven of the band’s albums have been certified platinum. The group has sold more than 20 million albums. Rascal Flatts has a staggering 28 top 10 hits on the country charts.

“It’s been an extraordinary run,” Rooney said. “We’ve been very fortunate. But it’s a challenge to top what we’ve done year after year. But the bottom line is that it’s about the music. We can’t control how things go.”

All they can control is the music. The band’s latest album, “Changed,” which dropped in 2012, is full of anthems and power ballads, which are up there with Journey’s finest slow jams. Band members stay in their comfort zone, where they excel.

“We give the fans what they want,” Rooney said. “That’s who we try to please. They are who’s boss. And at the same time, we try to please ourselves. What we try to do is make timeless, compelling music. It’s been so rewarding hearing fans tell us how our music has impacted their lives. What’s great about what we do is we touch people. It’s a really powerful thing. I can’t say enough about it.”

So how does Rooney explain the eclectic sound of Rascal Flatts? “We’ve been around when country has changed more than at any time in its history,” Rooney said. “You can add different elements to it, and that just didn’t happen in country a generation or two ago. You have the rock and the pop elements, and I think that makes it more fun. It’s definitely been good for us.”

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