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Sugarland cranks out sweet tunes at the E Center

SHARE Sugarland cranks out sweet tunes at the E Center


There were no voice problems this time.

In fact, one would be hard pressed to find any problems at all with Sugarland's concert at the E Center Friday night.

Last year, the superstar country duo had to cancel their opening slot at Rio Tinto Stadium when lead singer Jennifer Nettles lost her voice. This year, there wasn't a flaw to be found as Nettles voice was outstanding and she and partner Kristian Bush put on a thoroughly entertaining show.

Sugarland started off the show full throttle, going hit heavy on the front part of the set list with "It Happens," "Settlin'," and "All I Want To Do."

The band is touring in support of their upcoming album, "The Incredible Machine." Their appropriately named "The Incredible Machine Tour" featured an elaborate stage show which resembled a sort of Victorian industrial era machine, like the inside of a giant clock. Giant cogs, a bridge that spanned across the stage, a huge circle shaped video screen in the rear and phonograph-like speakers combined with a better than average light show made for an entertaining stage show. Nettles and Bush's backing 5-piece band all wore a kind of Victorian-era punk outfits.

Nettles, the country girl with the rock attitude, was the consummate performer, combing strong singing while keeping the crowd entertained with her dancing and between song banter and quick witted jokes.

"It's like when you go to the zoo. You think you're looking at the monkeys but really they're looking at you," the easy going Nettles joked with the crowd.

Saying it was an appropriate Mother's Day song, the band gathered close together to perform an acoustic "Baby Girl." Nettles' powerful vocals soared during the emotional "Stay," a song coming from the point of view of a man's fed up mistress, making it one of the best songs of the evening.

"Do you like surprises?" Nettles asked the crowd before taking Bush's guitar, signing it, and then having Bush walk out into the crowd to randomly hand it off to an suspecting fan, in this case a young girl.

The country, pop, rockin sound of Sugarland is influenced by a number of different genres, which is why Nettles and company aren't afraid to throw in a medley of cover songs from all over the music spectrum. During "Everyday America," Nettles and Bush managed to work in samples of Beyonce's "Single Ladies," The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," and Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." Later in the show, the duo broke into Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."

Other highlights included "Want To," "Who Says You Can't Go Home" with Bush playing the role of Jon Bon Jovi, and "Something More."

Overall, it was a great performance by two great performers, anchored by the charismatic Nettles.

Opening act, and hometown girl, Julianne Hough didn't have a big stage show. But a swing, a few costume changes, long hair extensions, "a little short outfit" (as she put it), a pair of crazy nice legs and some impeccable dance moves were all the props she needed.

The "Dancing With the Stars" standout, considered by some one of the best dancers on the planet, had plenty of style, but her voice and songs weren't nearly as strong the other performers of the evening. Not that it seemed to matter to the army of cell phone cameras that followed her whenever she danced around stage.

The parade of TV reality star openers started with former American Idol finalist Danny Gokey. Gokey's soulful voice soared on his own original songs during his 20 minute set. Songs like "Be Somebody," "I Will Not Say Goodbye" written in honor of his wife who passed away just a few weeks before his Idol audition, and his single "My Best Days Are Ahead of Me" were technically sound and more soulful than his dull cover of Rascal Flatt's "What Hurts The Most."

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com