Cruzan Amphitheatre was packed this past Saturday, but it a was a far cry from the last time I was at the venue for Warped Tour. Instead of punks sporting converse and piercings in every orifice, it was cowboy boot-palooza up in there, with daisy duke-clad gals waiting with bated breath for Sheryl Crow and Rascal Flatts.
After getting over the initial culture shock of feeling like we'd stepped into a rodeo (I swear I didn't know that many people in South Florida owned cowboy boots) my friend and I got to our seats, ready for some twang.
Opening act Gloriana, which hails from Nashville, got early arrivers in the mood with some catchy country tunes and sweet vocals. The guitarist was surprisingly talented and made an impression with his passionate rock style. The trio played a short but high energy set including two of its bigger tunes "Wild At Heart" and "(Kissed You) Good Night," which got the crowd singing along and dancing.
Sheryl Crow, who at 52 still looks amazing, took the stage next, playing to a packed crowd who she gave credit to for being there despite the weather. "Y'all really hang tough here. You don't care if there's a monsoon or a hurricane. Y'all are out here and even on the lawn," Crow pointed out with a grin at the rain which got progressively worse toward the end of the night.
She opened with one of her biggest hits "All I Wanna Do," an iconic song for women everywhere, which earned her plenty of screams, especially from her female fans. Almost every single person in the audience was able to sing along to all the words. Crow fed off the energy, stopping to reach out and touch the hands of her groupies and even commenting on how much she loved one cowgirl's nails.
Crow was all smiles despite the muggy weather, although she did admit to being less than dry and asked the audience playfully if everyone else was getting as sweaty as she was. But Sheryl Crow is an icon, so when she sweats, it's almost sacred.
She played many of her most beloved hits including "Strong Enough," "If It Makes You Happy," "Soak Up The Sun," and "Everyday Is a Winding Road" much to the delight of all in attendance who spent the majority of her set on their feet, swaying to her guitar and harmonica.
She created a bond with the audience, talking about personal moments including some which were light, like her recent trip to Legoland and her encounter with a dolphin, to more personal moments including her experiences playing for the troops and her friendship with the late June Carter and Johnny Cash.
Following her story about Cash, she went into "Redemption Song" and the place went nuts. It turned into a duet with recorded vocals from Cash who was brought back to live through song.
After a heartfelt and smart set by Crow, it was time for the Rascal Flatts. The band made quite the entrance as its fans greeted it with screams, yells, and squeals of hyper delight. These were serious devotees. The whole place was on its feet, singing every word, and getting wild enough with flailing limbs to make some uncomfortable. If you weren't singing along to every word, you got a bit of sideeye.
It's safe to say it was like a religious experience for hardcore fans who packed the amphitheater. Besides their obvious talent as musicians and passionate performances, these guys do one hell of a job when it comes to connecting with fans and getting personal to the point a familial bond is built.
Lead singer Gary LeVox pulled a young woman named Melanie onto the stage from the pit where she was waving her cowboy hat wildly as she sat atop the shoulders of her companion, sporting her bald head. Levox asked her if she had ever been down a broken road and she told him that she had many times. When he asked if she had fought like a girl she surprised him and the crowd with her answer. "I fought like I had balls," she replied with a grin and people cheered her on. Levox serenaded her as she hugged him fiercely and fought tears. He said or rather sang a prayer for her and tugged at the heartstrings of everyone in the crowd.
— Rascal Flatts (@rascalflatts) July 14, 2014
This was following its performance of "God Bless the Broken Road" one of the group's biggest hits, although it's a cover. Rascal Flatts played its newest song and the tour's namesake "Rewind." The night was a special one not only for the fans but for its lead guitarist Joe Don Rooney as well. It was his birthday and the guys surprised him with a cake while all of the members, including their instrumental non-singing, counterparts serenaded him with a special version of "Happy Birthday." The surprise didn't end there. After that, Crow appeared again and joined the guys onstage to sing Rooney a few bars of "I Will Always Love You" which he ate up happily.
She didn't initially receive the applause she deserved because LeVox joked that president Obama was about to take the stage, which caused the crowd to boo in harmony. Crow was a good sport about it though and she teased that everyone should be praying for the president not booing him because things were a mess right now and he needed it.
Crow and Rooney performed a beautiful duet of Crow's hit "Picture" originally recorded with Kid Rock. Crow stayed a while longer and joined the guys in a few more hits, including an awesome cover of "Life Is A Highway" which included opening act Gloriana.
There was a real sense of comradery between the acts, and it seemed clear to the crowd that these musicians are having as much fun touring together as audiences are having watching them. The show ended with a bang, literally, as fireworks went off on the stage, signaling the end of an unforgettable night.
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