Concert Review: Sugarland @ PNC Bank Arts Center

May 22, 2010
PNC Bank Arts Center

Line-up:  Sugarland, Jake Owen, Danny Gokey

It has been a while since my last visit to PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ but it all came back to me the moment I parked in the lot and had to walk through the woods to reach the ampitheatre. I was in section 302 row M and was more than content with my seats.

The first act was American Idol finalist Danny Gokey. To keep things short, I was not impressed by his set. Foruntely, he was only on for 20 minutes.

Next up was Jake Owen. He started off his 40 minute set with his energetic song “Yee Haw” that got some of the audience out of their seats. Owen showcased a very upbeat and energetic set. As his band-mates were shredding the guitar he was moving from side-to-side on stage, smiling and singing to the front rows of the ampitheatre. He slowed things down in the middle of his set and sang his emotional and moving “Startin’ with Me” only to pump up the tempo with his hard-rocking Country track “The Bad in Me” and his show-stopping finale “Eight Second Ride.” Jake Owen was everything an opening act should’ve been and more. At the end of his set list, everyone was on their feet, clapping to the music.

Finally, Sugarland took the stage after Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” was playing loudly over the theatre’s speakers. The set decoration was elaborate with huge machine gears in the background, a bridge to connect the two platforms on stage, and a large screen in the middle of everything. It looked awesome.

Sugarland sure knows how to start a party right as they opened up with plenty of their high-energy, positive songs: “It Happens,” “Settlin’,” “All I Want to Do,” and “Want To.” There wasn’t a moment to sit down during their back-to-back opening songs and the audience’s ovation kept getting louder. Sugarland played two new songs from their upcoming album “The Incredible Machine” that will be released in October. For the most part, they were catchy and front-woman Jennifer Nettles really enjoyed singing the songs.

In the middle of the set, Nettles and Kristian Bush slowed things down and played their show-stopping single, “Stay.” To no surprise, everyone in the venue was singing along with Nettles and you could barely hear the acoustic guitar accompanying her. After the song was over, the duo received the loudest ovation of the evening. Nettles admit that it was difficult to sing such a serious song because she was too cheery.

Sugarland then went into “Everyday America” and covered snippets to a few songs during their break-down. Nettles went into Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” Jackson 5’s “ABC,” and finally Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA.” I love it when bands show their appreciation for other musical artists, especially outside of their own genre, by covering their songs during a performance. It just shows how open-minded some people are to all of the music that exists.

The band concluded their set with “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and “Something More.” If there was any disappointment during the night, it was Sugarland’s selection for their encore. Kristian Bush came out and sang his solo version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” and then the rest of the band returned and sang Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.”

I felt a bit underwhelmed that Sugarland’s encore didn’t include one of their own songs, but all-in-all it was a very entertaining concert. They were very professional in their delivery and very grateful for all of their fortunes thus far in their lives. They have secured their position as Country’s top duo for, what I foresee, many years to come.

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