The year is 2000: Faith Hill is atop the Billboard charts with, “Breathe,” America is just now falling in love with Destiny's Child and three boys from Nashville are releasing their debut album filled under the moniker Rascal Flatts.
Fast forward 12 years and seven platinum albums later, the country trio are still relevant record makers–a fact no one in the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater could dispute as the guys hopped onstage in front of 16,000 screaming fans last Friday. Orange County had their fun-sized version of Stagecoach Festival fix, while Eli Young Band, and radio's hottest quintet, Little Big Town, joined in for the hoe down.
Being a country fan as a kid, Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus tours were always my must-see concerts of the summer. Looking back at those gigs, they would not come an inch close to the production experience that the Flatts create. Every-single section of the Amphitheater was used to the fullest, leading with five giant LED cubes with eye-popping graphics and rave-like light patterns, live video feeds on the stage back drop and a cat-walk surrounded with a sea of OC rascals.
With lead singer Gary LeVox having every gal in the crowd melting not only from his bedazzled cubic zirconia cuffed jeans and stallion white cowboy boots, but with charm-filled songs of romance. Bass player Jay DeMarcus, wore a glittered morning-faded blue shirt, and displayed a comedic roll out of the three Flatts. Wearing a bad ass leather vest and boy band-style head mic, Joe Don Rooney had the girls jumping around during his shredding guitar solos.
Coming out with a bang, Rascal Flatts sang hits “These Days,” “Me and My Gang” and “Fast Cars and Freedom,” followed by a heart warming moment for all the couples in the crowd with their latest hit ballad, “Come Wake Me Up.”
Apparently the Flatts have been getting hate mail from fans, upset the band doesn't play all of their commercial hits. If this is even a true story, they did a crowd influenced request session. The trio proceeded to play a tw- minute snippet of “My Wish” and oldie but goodie, “Mayberry”
DeMarcus said what we were all thinking, “The people on the lawn are the real partiers. They are the ones that have been drinking since 10 a.m.” I typically don't like to write about what head changing products the crowd is consuming, but I gotta say, this crowd was D-R-U-N-K. While walking through the Bud Light-infested parking lot, it was evident that the pre-concert tailgating was in full swing hours before the show. Obviously adopting the phrase No Beer Left Behind, I saw a father chugging a beer, with icy brews holstered in both of his pockets. There was no shortage of iconic red-neck scenes, as one girl held roasted ear of corn in one hand and a glass of Champaign in the other,and a theater filled with awkward off-beat country dancing moves. Finally, it is not a county affair unless their is an army of gorgeous girls dressed to impress.
Partaking in the fun and games, the trio led the intoxicated crowd with, “We are famers — da da da da da da,” the infamous Farmers Insurance jingle.
Showing their true musical ability, they harmonized with soulful twang with a bluesy gospel rendition of “lean On Me” and Journey's arena anthem “Open Arms.” Everyone in the crowd had their annual soul check as they segued into a barebones acoustic version of “God Blessed The Broken Road.”
Bringing high adrenaline back to the crowd, Rooney, shredded with a Les Paul guitar solo, while making alarm sounds with a guitar slide. It sounded like Hurricane Isaac was about to condemn Irvine as strobes went off with every slide strike.
While the Flatts prepared for their encore, the Verizon Amphitheater looked like Dodger Stadium as fans migrated to the exits to beat painful parking lot traffic. Ah, but for all you impatient fools, just know that you missed a handful of great tunes, including their hit “What Hurts The Most,” which definitely helped put the show over the top as the best country performance of the fading summer season.
Critcs Bias: When the Stagecoach Festival line-up was released without Rascal Flatts included, I was one unhappy camper.
The Crowd: Hot class girls of all ages, partying families and the aroma beer and leather in the air.
Random Notebook Dump: I can't believe how many upset fans were dooped into buying fake Rascal Flatts tickets, from third party services.