Sugarland Show Review in Orange County Register
There’s such incredible chemistry between Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. The country duo, who took the stage with a full band Monday night for the first of two shows at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, looked like they were having an absolute blast throughout their 90-minute set.
The audience definitely fed off that energy – people were on their feet for most of the show, happily obliging multiple singalongs and clapping during particular tunes. Nettles proved once again to be a mighty vocalist, hitting high and low notes and even rapping a bit in songs like “Stuck Like Glue” and “Every Girl Like Me.”
Sugarland’s debut hit, “Baby Girl,” was treated to an acoustic version – or a “campfire version,” as Nettles called it, for which even she picked up an acoustic guitar. During “Everyday America,” on the other hand, the group tossed in a medley in the middle that included snippets from Cee Lo Green’s “F*** You,” Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time,” Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” and Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious.”
The booty shake Nettles did during that last track would have made her friend Beyoncé proud. She also showed off her favorite dance from the early ‘90s: “That’s the Roger Rabbit and I used to kill it,” she told the audience after demonstrating her signature move at her senior prom in 1993.
Mid-show, Bush decided to give away his acoustic guitar; he held it high in the air and the crowd went bananas. He and Nettles quickly signed the instrument with a Sharpie and he headed into the crowd in search of the perfect fan to hand it off to.
He finally stopped way up in the nosebleeds – too far for me to see, and the cameras projecting onto side screens had a hard time focusing, so I couldn’t tell you if the lucky recipient was male or female, adult or child. But some happy individual walked away from this show with a pretty cool souvenir.
Sugarland only slowed things down a couple of times: once for Nettles to belt out the female empowerment anthem “Little Miss,” the latest single off the group’s fourth album The Incredible Machine; and again for “Stay,” in which Nettles and Bush huddled close together to perform the pleading track, her sweet voice bringing many – in my section alone – to tears.
The mood wasn’t somber for long, however, picking up with “Find the Beat Again” (peppered with a bit of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”) as well as a version of Nettles’ hit with Bon Jovi, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” “Something More” finished off the main set before the group encored with “Stand Up” and a cover of Dexys Midnight Runners’ “Come on Eileen,” which brought out supporting act Sara Bareilles to sing the chorus alongside Nettles.
Bareilles’ performance was simply stunning. The bubbly pianist appeared on stage donning a teal lace dress, a pinup hairdo and a wide, excited smile. She was able to win over this audience almost instantly with “Uncharted” and “Gonna Get Over You,” though it was smart to place her breakthrough smash “Love Song” near the beginning of the set. Much of the crowd sang along and finally recognized who she was, but by then she’d already captivated them with her cheerful stage presence and sweet demeanor.
She also was the only performer of the night to drop an f-bomb, sharing that “King of Anything” is about individuals who just need to “mind their own (bleepin’) business.” If anyone was offended – and no one seemed to be – Bareilles was able to sweet-talk them back into her set. Kristian Bush also joined in for “Basket Case,” but the excitement of that moment was soon overshadowed by her somber yet sweet closing track, “Gravity.”
Casey James, known for his third-place finish on season nine of American Idol, opened the show with a 20-minute turn, and though the crowd was still meager at that point, he had quite a few ladies swooning. James sported a strategically unbuttoned cowboy shirt and had his hair swept back into a low ponytail – picture a country music Fabio.
During his track “I Lied,” a group of teenage girls in the pit were just shrieking, jumping up and down and waving their arms to get him to notice them. A quick and shy smile in their direction, however, was his only acknowledgment.
Sugarland, with Sara Bareilles and Casey James opening, plays again tonight, July 26, at 7:30 at the Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., in Los Angeles. Tickets are $40.50-$120.