WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Two of country music’s most exciting and successful trios took to the stage Thursday as Rascal Flatts and The Band Perry each delivered big time for a near-capacity crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
Rascal Flatts, the veteran threesome of Gary LeVox (lead vocals), Jay DeMarcus (bass guitar, vocals) and Joe Don Rooney (lead guitar, vocals), are no strangers to Northeastern Pennsylvania or success, racking up seven No. 1 albums and 12 No. 1 singles since 2000.
The group appeared a bit before 9:30 p.m. Thursday, singing its most recent No. 1 single, “Banjo,” followed quickly by “Summer Nights,” a No. 2 hit from 2009.
The trio, which has played both the arena and the Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain numerous times during the past few years, were back in the area to promote “Changed,” its most recent No. 1 album. The early part of the evening was peppered with songs from the new collection, including “Hot in Here,” the hit single “Come Wake Me Up” and the show-opening number.
After a lengthy and sometimes humorous chat with the audience by DeMarcus, his bandmates returned and took requests. Songs in this portion included album track “Red Camaro,” a brief, fun stab at “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and the group’s No.1 hit “My Wish.” Then the trio followed up nicely with a full version of “Changed,” its single currently racing up the charts.
Another top trio, the young upstarts The Band Perry, consisting of siblings Kimberly Perry (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Reid Perry (bass guitar, background vocals) and Neil Perry (mandolin, background vocals), played an impressive 45-minute set of its arena-friendly, sing-along hits earlier in the evening.
Since releasing its self-titled debut album in October 2010, The Band Perry has scored six Top 20 hits on the Billboard Country charts, including a trio of No. 1s and a No. 2. The group’s latest album, “Pioneer,” will drop on April 2.
As great as the band’s big hits were on Thursday – “If I Die Young,” “You Lie” and “All My Life,” among them – the highlight might have been the fiddle-drenched hoedown cover of Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” sung equally enthusiastically by Neil and the large crowd.
Kimberly displayed a great deal of stage presence and vocal ability throughout the performance, especially on a divine few bars of “I Will Always Love You,” the song taken to the top of the charts by both Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston.
The Band Perry finished strongly with the current No. 1 song in the country, “Better Dig Two,” which showed this band will be a force in country music for many years to come.
Kristen Kelly, a talented newcomer earning praise for her “back-to-basics” approach, opened the show with a strong 20 minutes of her own.
The singer from Lorena, Texas, who released her debut EP in October and toured with Brad Paisley before joining the Rascal Flatts tour, scored big with her hits “Ex-Old Man” and “He Loves To Make Me Cry,” plus a foot-stomping version of the Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight.”
Rascal Flatts teased the crowd with the intros to Journey classics “Open Arms” and “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” before coming through with a full version of its own classic “Bless the Broken Road.” Then after lengthy and superfluous drum and guitar solos by backing band members, the trio came back on stage for an encore of “Me and My Gang,” “Life is a Highway” and “The Most.”
Thursday’s show ended on a true high note as both opening acts joined Rascal Flatts for a rocking-good version of “We’re an American Band.”
“We’re coming to your town to help you party down,” they all sang in unison. And the near-capacity crowd wholeheartedly agreed.