the Buzz for June 5th, 2011


Sugarland — “Incredible Machine [interlude]”
(from The Incredible Machine) — Incredible Machine (Interlude) - The Incredible Machine (Deluxe Edition)

As for the main event in the concert whose praises I sung in yesterday’s Honey from the Hive: this was our second brush with Sugarland in a live setting (the first was here in Austin in 2009, and if you missed my dispatch regarding that experience, you can catch up with it here). I don’t have a hell of a lot to add to what I wrote back then, because it all still pretty much applies, even a pair of years later, but I will once again reassert that Jennifer Nettles’ lively, galvanic potency as a live performer is such that many of her songs which may leave you cold when you listen to a Sugarland record — “All We Are,” for instance, or Machine‘s middling third single “Tonight” — make your spirit soar when she sings them straight to you (and, natch, to five thousand fellow fans). (That’s not necessarily true across the board: I thought “Stand Up” was a cliched hunk of ponderous poppycock when I first listened to Machine last October, and my stance was not moved a millimeter in any direction after seeing it on its arena-sized feet. And — as much as it pains me to agree with him — my cyber buddy Blake nailed it to the wall when he intimated on this very website last fall that one of the governing inspirations behind this record was to give Jennifer and Kristian Bush, her underappreciated musical partner in crime, a series of big, booming, stadium-ready set pieces designed to carry their audiences floating back to their cars on a post-show heartstring-tugged high, although it feels imperative that the following must also be noted: indeed, my heartstrings were, on balance, tugged, tweaked, plucked, and prodded, but it still takes a peculiarly cultivated talent and skill to be able to see that through and make it seem effortless, and, for whatever flaws she may otherwise possess as an artist, that is unquestionably Nettles’ compelling, magnetic magic as a performer.) Bush and Nettles opened their encore with this very song, a riveting ninety-second reprise of their latest album’s shimmering title track that offers Bush — his voice a captivating study in haunted, reverent awe — a rare opportunity to shine in the sun all by his lonesome, and aside from the magnificently jocular left turn when Nettles unexpectedly leapt from the bridge of “Everyday America” right into the chorus of Cee-Lo Green’s zeitgeisty smash “Forget You” (which you’d best believe brought the whole damned Alamodome to its collective feet), it was my favorite (and, hands down, the most profoundly powerful) moment of the night.