In a recent interview with The Blade, Kristian Bush promised Sugarland’s concert in Toledo on Thursday night would be the type of concert he would want to see from one of his favorite bands if they had taken a break for awhile.
Well, before reuniting earlier this year, Sugarland had been on hiatus for more than five years. Apparently, Bush would want to see extravagance, stunning visuals, and a whole lot of singing, because that is what he and his pal Jennifer Nettles delivered in a rousing 100-minute set at the Huntington Center.
It was appropriate that the duo’s opener was “Bigger,” the title of their current album, because everything about the night was bigger and more visually stimulating than their still very satisfying 2012 Toledo stop. At 8:50, Nettles and Brush appeared, silhouetted behind a large sheet that dropped to reveal what looked like the inside of a big top, complete with Nettles wearing a sultry ringmaster’s costume.
Sugarland’s performance style exudes complete joy. When they followed “Bigger” with “All I Want to Do” and “Stuck Like Glue,” the crowd danced and sang along, remembering all the lyrics from songs that were hits nearly 10 years ago. When the night wrapped up with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” the crowd was still dancing.
Though “Stuck Like Glue,” which was released in 2010, was the duo’s last major hit, Thursday night offered a peak into hits to come with some new music. “Babe,” written by Taylor Swift, is quickly climbing to the top of the charts. And “Bird in a Cage” and “Lean It on Back” are songs to watch for in the future. The professional break did nothing to spoil the pair’s writing chemistry.
Opening acts Lindsay Ell and Frankie Ballard were a pleasant surprise. Canadian Ell can shred on the guitar like few others. And Ballard? The man channeled Bob Seger, Tom Waits, Rick Springfield, Tom Jones, and even a little Elvis in a rousing 45-minute set that showed off impressive musicianship from his Wildcat Band.
But Thursday was about welcoming back a duo that dominated the radio charts before their leave. If there is a better voice than Nettles’ in country music, I haven’t heard it. The most powerful moment of the night was also the simplest. As the band stepped off stage, Bush played his acoustic alongside Nettles as she performed “Stay.” It was special.
The night was memorable for Sugarland too.
“People often tell us how lucky we are to play our music for a living,” Nettles told the crowd. “I look out at all these people and you know what I say? You are damn right.”
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