Rascal Flatts, Laura Bell Bundy and Jill Johnson, London

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

In 2006, Rascal Flatts were the top selling artist of any genre. That may surprise you if you aren’t aware of this band, who still have an undeniable presence in the country charts. And over the past two nights, thousands of country music fans descended upon London to see Rascal Flatts perform, and witness this celebration of country music.

The first act to take the stage was Jill Johnson 40, the Swedish Eurovision contestant and country songstress. Accompanied by a male guitarist and occasional harmonies, her powerful vocals and acoustic guitar were well received, yet she could not quite hold the attention of an audience excitedly awaiting the headliner.

Laura Bell Bundy, the 32 year old Kentucky born actress turned country singer, burst onto the stage wearing white hot pants, a tasseled top and matching boots- this woman was channeling her inner Dolly Parton. Her set was a perfectly choreographed mix of new material, including single Two Step, and a medley of country and Motown classics. Her dancing and sweet country vocals ensured that the crowd quickly warmed to her, and being flanked by two gorgeous backup dancers/singers only added to her vintage charm.

Rascal Flatts are masters of teasing an anticipant crowd. A countdown to their performance was displayed on a large screen behind the stage, and when the timer hit zero, deafening screams reverberated throughout the audience. It may as well have been an American stadium performance, to which the band are more accustomed, as the audience sang every word along with the band.

Now in their 40’s, Rascal Flatts first made impact on the country charts in 2000, and have accumulated an impressive repertoire, including 14 number one singles. They aren’t afraid to be country, with songs like Banjo, and the self-deprecating Backwards, whilst still maintaining the pop edge required to retain a presence in the country charts.

Gary LeVox vocal acrobatics, Joe Don Rooney’s guitar solos, Jay DeMarcus bass, and the harmonies featuring all three men, combined to form an incredibly polished, confident performance, that embodied the excitement of live music. Over years of touring Rascal Flatts have learned the perfect mix of fast and slow, old and new, pop and country. This was an impressive performance, and an excellent showcase of modern country music that is seriously lacking in this country.

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