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Rice tours despite limits

While most of the concert industry has been derailed by COVID-19, country star Chase Rice is one of the few performers who’s continued to tour when and where he legally can.

Rice — who will be the first and, most likely, only national act to play the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre in 2020 when he performs there Sunday — has played drive-ins and other venues in recent months.

He told Radio.com in May, “As soon as they’re allowed to be out there, and I can see the people’s faces, and it’s legal, I’m doing it immediately.”

Not everyone has approved of that decision. When Rice posted video on Instagram from a Tennessee concert in June showing maskless fans packed shoulder-to-shoulder at the front of the stage, he received criticism from fellow artists.

Two-time Grammy nominee Kelsea Ballerini tweeted, “Imagine being selfish enough to put thousands of people’s health at risk, not to mention the potential ripple effect, and play a NORMAL concert right now. We all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait.”

Rice has questioned some of the protocols put in place since the pandemic started.

In that same Radio.com interview, Rice said, “I’m not a big fan of the social-distancing thing, I’ll be straight up about that. I just don’t know if it’s the right thing we should be doing … So I am a big fan of ‘let people decide who they want to hang out with and how many people they want to be around.'”

Shortly after the shutdown started in mid-March, Rice posted a song snippet to YouTube that included the lyrics, “Dear corona, you don’t know the heart of a country fan / You don’t know that we don’t give a damn.”

For Sunday’s concert, ticket sales are capped at 1,500 at the outdoor amphitheater that can accommodate about 5,000 people. Concertgoers must wear masks at all times and are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets for seating on the lawn and maintain social distancing. Hand sanitizer will be available for all attendees.

Concession stands will have a streamlined menu to expedite service and keep lines short, and additional sanitation crew members will be employed to ensure cleanliness in high-traffic areas.

Rice has sold more than 1.6 million albums, and his songs have been streamed more than a billion times. His radio hits include “Ready Set Roll,” “Gonna Wanna Tonight,” “Eyes on You” and “Lonely If You Are,” and he co-wrote Florida Georgia Line’s hit single “Cruise.” His latest release is the EP “The Album Part II.”

He also has some reality television fame. Rice first gained national attention in 2010 as a competitor on the CBS reality show “Survivor,” and earlier this year he was woven into the drama on the ABC series “The Bachelor.”

Bachelor Peter Weber brought one of the contestants for a one-on-one date to see Rice perform at Cedar Point in Sandusky. Rice previously had dated the woman Weber brought to the show. Rice told the Washington Post he wasn’t aware of the producer’s plans when he agreed to appear on the show, but he had no regrets.

“At the end of the day, if it brings people back to the album, brings people back to ‘Lonely If You Are,’ then … I’m happy,” Rice told the newspaper. “I don’t care how it happens.”

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