Country music sensation Sugarland were full of surprises when they played the Santa Barbara Bowl last Sunday. With their In Your Hands tour, the band made the fans part of the show, allowing them to help decide the set list and sing backup. (Megan, age 10, did a backup bit on “Everyday American” and Cheyenne, age 12, joined the duo for “Baby Girl.”)
The level of audience interaction elicited from singer Jennifer Nettles and guitarist Kristian Bush isn’t surprising; it’s kind of their MO. With a personality that lights up the stage, Nettles clearly has fun performing and seems to not want to exclude anyone from the good time. A perpetual smile on her pretty face, Nettles bopped about the Bowl stage with rhythm and grace, beguiling the audience with her immense vocal prowess.
Backed by their tip-top band — ever-stylish bass player Annie Clements, lead guitarist Scott Patton, guitarist Thad Beaty, keyboardist Brandon Bush, and drummer Travis McNabb — Sugarland performed tunes from all four of their albums. “Wide Open,” “Want To,” and “Stay,” and a cover of Vanillia Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” were particularly memorable.
Sugarland closed the show with another fantastic surprise: legendary musician and producer Dave Stewart showed up to play guitar on two Eurythmics covers, “Here Comes the Rain Again” and “Would I Lie to You.” Looking like a Tim Burton character in a stovepipe hat, white face powder, and glittery black suit, Stewart nailed the guitar parts, of course, while Nettles rose to the vocal challenge — just like the chanteuse they were written for, Annie Lennox.