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Originally published Friday, April 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Slick young country at the T-Dome

The timing is perfect. Two of the hottest young country acts come to the Tacoma Dome Saturday, right when both are peaking on the charts...

Seattle Times music critic

Concert preview

Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift

8 p.m. Saturday, Tacoma Dome; $49.75-$65 (206-628-0888, www.ticketmaster.com or www.livenation.com; information, 253-272-3663 or www.tacomadome.org).

The timing is perfect.

Two of the hottest young country acts come to the Tacoma Dome Saturday, right when both are peaking on the charts. Rascal Flatts, the top band in country, shares the bill with Taylor Swift, the hottest new female star to come along in years — and she's only 18.

Both have Top 10 albums on the Billboard country list. "Taylor Swift," the blue-eyed blond bombshell's debut, has sold 2 million, twice as many as Rascal Flatts latest, "Still Feels Good." Both also have current hit singles on pop/country radio, Swift with "Picture to Burn" and Rascal Flatts with "Every Day."

The bill reflects the dominant state of country music right now. Country has largely taken over the arena-rock/power-ballad style that hair/rock bands established in the 1970s and '80s (represented by Rascal Flatts) as well as the cute, sexy pop of Top 40 rock (Swift's domain).

You're not going to be challenged by either act, nor are you going to hear a lot of originality. Both will present mostly fun, danceable music, and the Rascal Flatts set will be full of stage business, from video screens to pyro.

The three guys who make up Rascal Flatts — singer Gary LeVox ("vox" is Latin for "voice" — get it?), sex symbol guitarist Joe Don Rooney and sensitive/ladies-man bassist/singer Jay DeMarcus — are backed by five other musicians, who give their slick Nashville pop a professional sheen.

Their songs tend to be overly sentimental, like "Skin (Sarabeth)," about a girl with leukemia whose date for the prom shaves his head in solidarity, or "What Hurts the Most," a heart-tugger about breaking up.

Swift writes clever, sassy, upbeat songs like "Picture to Burn," about putting the torch to snapshots of a former boyfriend; and "Tim McGraw," about romantic memories of dancing to his music.

Given the stature of the two attractions, the T-Dome will be packed and the excitement will be electric. To country fans, it will probably feel like a kickoff to the spring and summer concert season.

Patrick MacDonald: 206-464-2312 or pmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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