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Rice turns up the volume

Stage AE, Pittsburgh, February 3, 2018

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

Fans expecting to see Chase Rice to come out and play his pleasing contemporary country for 100 minutes were in for a bit of a surprise. The set list included all the hits, and was skewed more toward his 2014 number 1 album " Ignite The Night" than his latest "Lambs & Lions," but most were performed in a shred fest worthy of an '80s hair metal band.

With Ibanez, Carvin and Manowar guitars pushing the volume up way past 11, John Souki and Troy Lancaster dueled all night. Rice opened with "Lions" with its haunting combination of organ and guitar that broke into an EDM-backed chant during an interlude that incorporates The Lord's Prayer against a haunting backdrop of a thunderstorm.

Rice introduced "Cruise" by saying, "I helped write a lot of songs for other artists, and this is my first number one." After his rendition, one wonders why he didn't cut it himself rather than giving it to Florida Georgia Line. However, the catchy feel good summer anthem is a sure fire crowd pleaser and felt a little like a safe bet filler in a spot that could have featured a song from the new album.

Only "Eyes On You," "Carolina Can" and "Gonna Wanna Tonight" provided brief respites from the amped up ax fest and felt as close to traditional as a contemporary artist can get. The ballads showcase Rice's smooth delivery best. Rice introduced the band during a 10 minute, 6-song mini set that included Billy Joel's "Piano Man" and "Friends in Low Places" before the closer "Ready Set Roll," an all-out arena style jam with pyro, smoke and strobes flashing amidst the scorching guitars. The lyrics are less bro country on the new album, but sonically, the country sound was more tangential than a focus.

Opener Travis Denning managed to squeeze in "Ready For Tonight" a few songs in between asking the crowd if and what they were drinking and encouraging more of it.