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Sugarland keeps it simple and casual at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are letting fans pick some of the songs during this tour. Photo credit: Robb D. Cohen/ www.RobbsPhotos.com

Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are letting fans pick some of the songs during this tour. Photo credit: Robb D. Cohen/ www.RobbsPhotos.com

In the eight years since Sugarland’s first hit (“Baby Girl”), Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush have toured small, toured big, toured snazzy production style (“The Incredible Machine”) and now, they’re just touring as themselves.

The “In Your Hands” jaunt has been on the road for a few months, and will soon wrap so that Nettles can concentrate on her impending motherhood (she’s due in November).

But for what is likely the last Sugarland road trip for a year or so, the duo with deep Georgia ties is keeping it simple and casual, with the focus lasered on their four-album catalog with a few fun detours along the way.

At Thursday’s almost completely full show at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park – admirable considering Sugarland  nearly sold out Philips Arena last October – Nettles and Bush kicked off the night as they should, with just the two of them on stage for “Wide Open.”

Nettles, clad in a bright tank top and maternity jeans that she showed off later in the show, looked casual and natural, and as their five-piece backing band kicked into “Stuck Like Glue” with an added N’Awlins-style bounce, she bopped around with some light dancing, her polarizing twang in full effect.

Though Nettles is understandably not going to be hanging from the rafters anytime soon, Bush maintained the energy quotient during the 100-minute show, buzzing around the stage and even cruising into the crowd to give away a signed acoustic guitar to a random fan.

Sugarland and country radio still love each other with much loyalty, but there is plenty of mainstream crossover action among the band’s fans. You’re as likely to see a Hawaiian shirt or Yankees cap as you are cowboy hats and boots, owing much to the poppy nature of many of the duo’s songs – the relatable “It Happens” and the power ballad “Tonight” prime examples.

A side note, the tour is dubbed “In Your Hands” because Sugarland is allowing fans to choose a portion of the set list.

Nettles and Bush combed through “a bumper crop of signs,” many of them elaborately decorated with pleas for a certain song, first landing on “Blood on Snow,” a song Nettles said she had hoped would have been used in the first “Twilight” movie.

The two fans who requested “Mean Girls” were brought on stage to sing the driving country rocker (and based on their quite good rendition, there had apparently been a lot of practicing in front of mirrors), and Nettles pulled out her lyric sheet for the lovely ballad, “Fall Into Me.”

Since this was a hometown show, some kind of surprise was expected – and delivered. Nettles called out her former “Duets” partner – from her hometown of Douglas, Ga. – John Glosson to reprise their spirited take on Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway.” Glosson possesses a gorgeous voice, which was on better display during the pleading Sugarland ballad, “Stay.”

Throughout the show, the cute camaraderie between Nettles and Bush was always apparent, but it blasted off the stage during “All I Want to Do.” Mid-song, Nettles spotted a fan’s sign requesting “Ice Ice Baby” and the singer gamely complied, even adding the Cabbage Patch and other ‘80s dance moves to her rendition.

By the time the singalong to “Find the Beat Again” arrived, there might have been the underlying sense that this was goodbye for now. But Sugarland fans shouldn’t fret too much – the duo will be back in Atlanta in October to accept their induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

Opening the show was Dave Stewart, better known as the male half of Eurythmics.

Decked out in a mustard suit bedecked with blackbirds (his last album is called “The Blackbird Diaries” and his next, out Sept. 4, is “The Ringmaster General”), a smear of white face powder and a natty top hat, Stewart churned through his rootsy solo work and a few Eurythmics classics in his 45-minute set.

Stewart’s ace five-piece band included Orianthi on guitar (her musical talents dig far deeper than displayed on her enjoyable pop hit, “According to You”), Dana Glover on vocals and keyboards and Ann Marie Calhoun on violin – a welcome touch on those Eurthymics songs.

The group dazzled with “So Long Ago,” a song filled with Memphis soul-styled backing vocals and keys and stomped through the bluesy “Beast Called Fame.”

Stewart’s voice isn’t particularly distinctive, but he gets the job done well, demonstrated on the acoustic “Magic in the Blues,” a song clearly influenced by Bob Dyan.

Dave Stewart was joined by 12-year-old daughter Kaya on "Missionary Man" as violinist Ann Marie Calhoun plays along. Photo credit: Robb D. Cohen/ www.RobbsPhotos.com

Dave Stewart was joined by 12-year-old daughter Kaya on "Missionary Man" as violinist Ann Marie Calhoun plays along. Photo credit: Robb D. Cohen/ www.RobbsPhotos.com

Though a few technical glitches added headaches to the set – a non-working guitar, Glover’s mic turned too low – it was still disappointing that the crowd didn’t seem to appreciate his efforts.

Even when the band broke into Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” which the multi-faceted Stewart co-wrote, and familiar-with-a- twist versions of “Here Comes the Rain Again” and “Sweet Dreams,” not many seemed interested.

But even the most apathetic listeners had to be impressed with the performance of Kaya Stewart, his 12-year-old daughter who absolutely slayed “Missionary Man.”

Stewart noted at song’s end that it was the first time Kaya had sung on stage with her father – amazing, considering her poise and knockout pipes.

Annie Lennox would be proud.

(Check out our gallery for more photos from Thursday’s show.)

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

35 comments Add your comment

Ursula Collins

August 24th, 2012
3:49 am

I was proud to experience my first Sugarland concert in the pit within arms length of the stage. This band is definitely fan friendly. It was a great night of music and fun that I will not soon forget.

JJ

August 24th, 2012
7:54 am

What a fun concert! Kaya Stewart has quite a voice for anyone – much less for a 12 year old girl. Wow! / Sugarland was wonderful – so much talent, humor and surprises. Loved it!

david c

August 24th, 2012
7:54 am

How sad for Dave Stewart.

Flo - Ri - Duh

August 24th, 2012
8:18 am

A great concert. Jen Nettles is so talented and loved by her audience. Someone out there should have the vision to give John Glosson a contract deal. He has the talent to make it……. a truly beautiful voice and range. John and Jennifer vocalize so well together. Just beautiful.

Mary Shell

August 24th, 2012
8:27 am

This was a country music audience and that is why they didn’t show as much enthusiasm for Dave Stewart as he deserved. He and his band were good. The high point for me was hearing John Glosson in person for the very first time. He has unbelievable range and a beautiful voice. Much better than J. Rome who was “chosen” for 1st place in the Duets contest before the show even started. What an injustice. His voice is far beyond most of the so called super stars in music today.

Hollie Clark

August 24th, 2012
8:29 am

Jennifer Nettles and John Glosson were so good together. Someone, anyone get a brain and give John Glosson an opportunity. He has the voice to make it big.

Greenetree Lakes

August 24th, 2012
8:30 am

Sugarland is great but much better with John Glosson.

Matt Ingram

August 24th, 2012
8:32 am

Great concert. Sugarland is my favorite and I’m in LOVE with Jennifer Nettles. Such a sweet and beautiful lady. I was amazed at how good John Glosson is. What a voice. Why doesn’t he have a contract deal by now?

Shantae Mizzell

August 24th, 2012
8:36 am

I’m more in to rap but took in the concert because of John Glosson. I watched him on Duets and was awed by his voice. He is even better live and has a wonderful, God given voice. I would pay to see him again.

ATL to Nashville

August 24th, 2012
8:37 am

Guessing that if this show had been at Philips like last October, Dave Stewart would have been MUCH more well received…like at Gwinnett Arena, it seems the demographic changes pretty dramatically OTP with music venues and in general…me, I love live music so much and appreciate musical talent no matter its source-I would’ve applauded Mr. Stewart for sure…that is indeed too bad…cool story about his daughter also…

Give Love A Chance.

August 24th, 2012
8:38 am

Free John Glosson – give him a chance. What a VOICE! Sugarland was great. Can’t wait to hear them again.

ATL to Nashville

August 24th, 2012
8:41 am

BTW, Melissa, nice job writing this up so as to not rile up “don’t say they’re from ATL they’re not originally from here” crowd that always posts on your blog…I’m in Nashville now, but-gotta love the internet-I’ll be reading you the same as always…LIVE MUSIC was my favorite thing about living in ATL-so-your blog will always “hit a note” with me…I already miss all the amphitheatres…you guys don’t need Lakewood anymore-maybe we can transplant it to a scenic spot on the Cumberland River downtown up here in Music City…:)

Kelly Clarkson

August 24th, 2012
8:43 am

John sang with me at the Verizon a few weeks ago to a standing ovation. Love his voice.

Douglas Georgia

August 24th, 2012
8:49 am

Jennifer Nettles IS from Douglas, Georgia – not Atlanta. John Glosson is NOT originally from Douglas (Savannah?) but he has lived here for several years. His wife, Deborah, cuts my hair. Proud of Jennifer and John and the whole Sugarland Band. Hope John Glosson gets the chance to cut an album. He has the talent. I have heard him many times. What a voice!

Rowdy

August 24th, 2012
8:51 am

Atlanta

August 24th, 2012
8:55 am

We claim SugarLand. Jennifer Nettles may be from Douglas but SugarLand is Atlanta. We love them wherever they are from. The concert was definitely worth seeing. LOVED IT! John Glosson wowed me with his voice. If you get a chance to hear his voice live GO!

Danica

August 24th, 2012
9:01 am

What a great concert Loved that it was up close and not in such a huge place as Phillips Arena. You can hear the voices much better at Verizon. John Glosson was a nice bonus surprise. Could he possibly be on Sugarland’s next album? Just ONE duet with Jennifer please. Also liked Dave Steart as the intro band.

Jorge' Rodriguez

August 24th, 2012
9:04 am

Latinos love Sugaland too! Was inspired by John Glosson’s voice. Beautiful.

Amanda

August 24th, 2012
9:07 am

I saw Sugarland and John Glosson at the “Wild Adventures” Theme Park in South Georgia near Valdosta. They sang to a sold out and very loud crowd. I was impressed. With Sugarland and with John Glosson.

Linda Crafton

August 24th, 2012
9:09 am

Sugarland! What a great time we had at Verizon. John Glosson impressed me.

Chi Town

August 24th, 2012
9:09 am

Why do all the lesbo’s love Jennifer Nettles?

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, yeah!

Get A Life

August 24th, 2012
9:26 am

Chi Town – A better question is why are you here? Get lost!

Quick Time

August 24th, 2012
9:30 am

Jen is Sugarland! Get it on! What a concert – very entertaining and all the guests (John Glosson) made it even better.

disneypal

August 24th, 2012
9:35 am

I was at the show and it was great. While I thought Dave Stewart’s band was really good, they were WAY TOO LOUD to the point of hurting your ears, you could barely hear the lyrics over the instruments. I think he and his band would have been appreciated more in a different setting. But this was a place filled with country music fans and his style did not fit with Sugarland and the other opening act “Canaan Smith”, who was also really good.

Sugarland’s show was much lower key then previous tours but I liked it and as usual, they did not disappoint.

Gail Sweat

August 24th, 2012
9:41 am

Melissa…did you know that in the gallery of photos from this concert, the one of the couple sitting down–the man’s fly is open! Take that photo down!

Nit Pick

August 24th, 2012
9:54 am

You did not have a single photo with John Glosson in it. Why?

foodfight

August 24th, 2012
10:04 am

Polarizing Twang? Really? Dumb/ devicive comment. Maybe you are the one with a polarizing accent.

Melissa Ruggieri

August 24th, 2012
10:52 am

Nit Pick – The photographers are only allowed to shoot the first two or three songs of the show. That’s typical of any headlining act. So by the time John came on stage, Robb, our photog, was long escorted from of the venue! (Sometimes the openers are a little different – depending on the artist – which is why Robb was able to stay for all of Dave’s set. But the band(s) set those guidelines.)

Gail – I don’t handle the photo galleries, but I’ll certainly mention to the folks who do!

foodfight – Obviously you’re a fan of Jennifer’s voice. For as many people like you who love it, there is a whole other segment of folks who won’t listen to the group because they can’t stand her voice, which is distinctive…hence, it is ‘polarizing.’

Cheers,
Melissa

Ron Ray

August 24th, 2012
11:49 am

Stewart was a disappointment, not because of his music, but because of the volume at which he played it. That volume seemed louder turned up for his band. My ears literally went numb at one point, and I had to leave my seat to get away from the blast. The high volume was made worse by the higher tones generated by the electric guitars and his and his daughter’s upper pitched voices.

Dave, if you read this, and I hope you do, cut the volume down a notch. Then maybe your fans will enjoy your music, instead of feeling your pain.

Jennifer

August 24th, 2012
2:22 pm

That was an amazing concert. I had so much fun. Jennifer didn’t pick my poster but she said something about on stage. Mine was the 3D poster. I even had the chance to meet them. They are very nice people.

RC

August 24th, 2012
10:24 pm

Dave Stewart was loud, but otherwise very good I thought. This wasn’t a one-off pairing with Sugerland. He has already played dates with them this year and there are more scheduled. His website features two concert videos of Nettles singing a couple of Eurythmics songs with him on guitar. Check it out.

ECS

August 25th, 2012
11:07 am

The concert was all I expected. Sugarland is my favorite twosome – and their band is terrific to boot. Jennifer Nettles would be a superstar in any genre. What a special and engaging talent! Looking forward to their next album. John Glosson is the real deal – and in his case, I hope he gets one! Dave Stewart’s performance was sabotaged by the bone-pounding, ear-splitting volume levels “someone” chose. I like volume – but come on – not when it detracts from the performance! Yea Sugarland!

APM

August 25th, 2012
12:22 pm

I was at this show and it was incredible. Jennifer has an amazing voice and she can sing any genre of music. We loved every minute of the concert!! The way Jennifer & Kristian connect with their fans and look so happy to be performing is just so endearing. I hope they put out another album next year and tour after that. I will surely be there for as many shows as I can get to. As for Dave Stewart, I loved hearing the Eurythmics songs. I’m a child of the 80’s so I know all of their hits. Dave’s daughter sure could sing too!!! I was in the pit and didn’t notice the sound problems during Dave’s set. But I was there to see Sugarland & would have been happy with whoever opened for them. Sugarland is THE show for me!!! Love them!!

Tesha

August 25th, 2012
10:37 pm

It was an awesome show!!! I do agree with Ron Ray, RC and ECS though, Stewart’s set was entirely too loud!!!

Karen

August 26th, 2012
1:10 am

It was an awesome show! I thank Jennifer and Kristian for making my daughter, Brittany’s dream come true! Melissa, thank you for the compliment on the girls singing Mean Girls. Actually, they had not practiced at all. We drove down from Chicago on Wed and the girls each had posters with different songs on them. They told each other if one of them would get chosen, by chance, they would ask if the other one could also come up on stage and sing. So, that’s what happened. Brooke’s mom and I met through Sugarland a few years ago and meet up at a couple different shows each year!