Summer Nights: Rascal Flatts, Kelsea Ballerini and Chris Lane Heat Up Syracuse

The music of Rascal Flatts brings memories of summer cookouts, hanging by a bonfire with beers and friends and cruising down a lake in a pontoon boat, while the sounds of country music, the water lapping the hull of the boat and the motor fill the air. And the Lakeview Amphitheater in Syracuse, NY, was the perfect venue for the June 24 Rascal Flatts’ concert. The venue sits with its back to Onondaga Lake and the concert’s starting time of 7:30 p.m. made it coincide perfectly with the sunset, which gave the horizon an almost picturesque rose-colored tint.

Dressed in a tight, white T-shirt and wearing rounded vintage sunglasses, Chris Lane opened the show and brought many ladies to their feet with his laid-back weekend party jam, “Saturday Night.” Keeping the crowd pumped up by asking “Syracuse, are y’all ready to celebrate the weekend or what?! Let’s do it!,” he continued his set with his pop-driven love ballads, “Her Own Kind of Beautiful”and “Who’s it Gonna Be.” Lane showed his musical range and that he knew how to play to his target audience, by including covers of classic boyband anthems such as the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” and ‘N Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye.” Lane finished his set with his latest single, from the album of the same title, “Fix.”

After a short break, new-comer Kelsea Ballerini continued the show. Ballerini released her first album in 2014 and has been touted by many industry experts as the next Taylor Swift. The fact that Ballerini is a tall, beautiful blonde with a smile bright enough to almost make this photographer have to lower the brightness settings on his camera, certainly helps her comparison to Country superstars Swift and Carrie Underwood. Ballerini is also one of only five women to score number-one hits on the Billboard Country Airplay Charts with their first two charted singles. Ballerini’s talent was further recognized when in 2016, she won the Academy of Country Music award for “Female Vocalist Of The Year.” Watching her vocal range, great energy and enthusiasm as she belted out “Yeah Boy,” “Dibs” and “Looking at Stars,” one could see that the hype surrounding her career was definitely warranted. Ballerini kept the crowd engaged between songs by encouraging us to sing-along with her, telling us about her first heartbreak, holding hands and even taking selfies with the crowd. Unsurprisingly, the crowd seemed to especially respond to Ballerini’s two hits, the upbeat “Love Me Like You Mean It” and “Peter Pan.” Great things are to be expected from Ms. Ballerini in the coming years.

Following a short period, which allowed the stage crew set up for the next act behind a large black curtain, Rascal Flatts took the stage to the cheers of the crowd. They kicked off their set with the same song that had been in my head since I arrived at the Lakeview Amphitheater earlier that day, “Summer Nights.” Lead singer Gary LeVox’s ability to hit the highest notes did not fail to impress. The concert was filled with shout outs to Syracuse, high fives/hand holding with the members of the audience, and on several occasions, Levox would take one of the many phones being held up by the fans in the front rows, turn around and take a selfie with the crowd in the background, before handing the phone back to the lucky fan. The group even ventured into new musical territory and in honor of the late, great Prince, played “Purple Rain.” The group wound down their set with the hit designed to honor their hordes of fans over the years, “Here’s To You,” before leaving the stage for a short time and returning for an encore with one of their biggest hits, “Me and My Gang.” Chris Lane and Kelsea Ballerini joined them on stage at this point creating a memorable grand finale.

The Rascal Flatts Set List:

Summer Nights, I Like the Sound of That, Banjo, Come Wake Me Up/I Melt/I Won’t Let Go, Life Is a Highway, Why Wait, Stand, Bless the Broken Road/Open Arms (Journey cover), Rewind, Fast Cars and Freedom, Purple Rain (Prince cover), Love You Out Loud, My Wish, Take Me There, What Hurts the Most, Here’s To You

Encore : Me and My Gang

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