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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Who says you can't go home?

At the 1 hour, 7 minute mark of last night's Sugarland concert at the Gwinnett Arena, Kristian Bush 92C stepped up for his first lead vocal of the night. He took took over the Jon Bon Jovi part of the duet, Who Says You Can't Go Home?, a no. 1 single for Bon Jovi and Bush's partner Jennifer Nettles. It was a great highlight for the hard-working musician, and something the sold-out crowd, few of whom sat down at any point of the night, appreciated.
As the song played, a large video screen flashed a smorgasbord of Atlanta-area icons (The Varsity, the Georgia Dome, Eddie's Attic, the "Gwinnett is Great" water towers). There were no Emory images, alas. but the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech got flashes (and the UGA logo won the fan vote).
The Atlanta love shown was just one way the duo expessed their great appreciation for their home state and its fans. Sugarland's show included not only a string of their new and old hits, strategic picks from the current album, Love On The Inside, but some inspired covers from Georgia artists, like an exquisite (albeit too short) cover of R.E.M.'s classic, Nightswimming. And their final song was a trippy cover of the B-52's Love Shack with Bush delivering a camp-free male vocal and Nettles donning a frizzy, foot-high blond wig, somehow channeling both Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson at the same time.
While Nettles (justifiably) earns her share of attention, Sugarland, which won two Grammys earlier this year and has been cleaning up the acronym-heavy country music awards or some time (CMA, ACMs, etc.) is a true partnership. For instance, when Nettles belts the Grammy-winning ballad, Stay, Bush is right next to her, passionately playing guitar. There are two spotlights shining down.
It's hardly diva-in-training behavior.
The pair is boundlessly energetic, too. Bush, in particular, endlessly sprints from one end of the stage to the other like he's just downed a half-dozen espressos. Their connection to the crowd, and to each other, is remarkable. For Bush, it's a long way from playing house parties on Fraternity Row.
For those of you who enjoy such things, the set list from the show (the first of huge tour that will cross-cross the continent this summer) is below. Fans will recognize a lot of the band's hits. The set also included a smattering of new songs that gave Bush and Nettles a chance to stretch. For instance, their second encore, So Long, featured Nettles on piano (one of four instruments she played on the night) and rockin' bass solo by Bush, while Blood on Snow plunged some moody lyrical depths that were a great contrast to their upbeat material.

It Happens
Want To
Already Gone
Blood on Snow
All I Want To Do
Everyday America
That's How I Like It
Down in Mississippi (And Up To No Good)
Who Says You Can't Go Home
Something More
Baby Girl (Acoustic)
So Long
Love Shack
Jet (signing autographs)

--Eric Rangus, director of communications, EAA

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