Wrigley's country combo platter rips

by Alison Bonaguro

Special to the Tribune

Published July 20, 2009


If you've ever doubted the power of a lead singer, you should see what happens when one disappears. When Rascal Flatts frontman Gary LeVox went missing for about four songs during the group's Wrigley Field show on Saturday night, the crowd took a break as well.

Without LeVox's twangy, vibrato-embellished vocals, songs such as "Mayberry," "Prayin' for Daylight" and "Backwards" didn't have nearly the same pull. Fellow Flatts Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney did their part to entertain the robust crowd, but their vocals were no match for LeVox's.

And when opener Vince Gill returned to join the band for a duet with LeVox on Gill's 1989 "When I Call Your Name," fans used that time to sit down, text their friends, find a bathroom or buy another beer. Gill's sweet voice and gift for guitar playing seemed lost on the roughly 40,000 younger-than-average (for a country show) fans.

This was the first country concert Wrigley Field had ever hosted. And while the staging was all very elaborately designed and built, the friendly confines are just not made for music. The sound was deafening and the video screens went blank twice during the show.

Still, there were only a handful of empty seats in the place because Rascal Flatts' music is as popular as pop. Its five-man backing band with fiddle, banjo and steel guitar kept things country enough to warrant the sea of cowboy hats in the outfield.

While LeVox's voice was the star, Darius Rucker's familiar wail also had a tight grip on the audience. He packed eight songs into his opening set: six from his 2008 full-on country album "Learn to Live," an old Hank Williams Jr. cover song and a tune that he called "the first country song I ever wrote." It was "Let Her Cry," from his Hootie and the Blowfish days.

Finally, at the end of the night, when Rucker returned to sing "Life is a Highway" with LeVox, the two voices joined forces to hit one out of the ballpark.


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