Country music duo, Sugarland, brought an important message to Chaifetz Arena last night with special guests, Clare Bowen and Brandy Clark. The “Still the Same Tour” was packed with messages of love, belonging, and reaching for something bigger than yourself.
The night kicked off with an enchanting set from Nashville star, Clare Bowen, and her husband, Brandon Robert Young. They took the stage holding hands and shared their love with the audience as they started their five song set with upbeat hit, “Tide Rolls In.” Bowen then sang “If I Didn’t Know Better,” a cover of The Civil Wars song made famous by her character, Scarlett O’Connor, on Nashville. The soothing harmonies mixed with the soft backdrop of the stage made the entire set feel intimate and created a hushed engagement of the crowd. Bowen then shared her thoughts that “If we all stick together and spread compassion we can make the world glow,” and this positivity radiated through her last two songs, “Little by Little” and “Oh Hello.” Bowen and Young were reminiscent to a modern day Johnny and June, and as they took their final bows the crowd erupted.
Next to the stage was Brandy Clark, who started off her set with relaxed hits, “Holy Rollers” and “Big Day in a Small Town.” She continued on through her set and the crowd buzzed as she began to strum out the first cords of her first top 40 hit, “Girl Next Door.” The music video was reflected onto the screens in the background and as the story played out, Clark’s passion intensified. The mood of the set then shifted as she shared some words on booty calls, followed by the song “You’re Drunk” followed by a sweet revenge song, “Daughter.” Clark’s witty and relatable lyrics were apparent throughout the set, so it was no surprise when she announced that she had helped write Miranda Lambert’s hit song, “Mama’s Broken Heart.” As Clark sang her rendition of that hit the momentum continued to build, only to finish with “Stripes,” a song with a similar feel that includes the lyrics, “The only thing keepin’ me from losin’ my head is I hate stripes and orange ain’t my color, and if I squeeze that trigger tonight I’ll be wearin’ one or the other.”
Finally, it was time for Sugarland. Immediately following the opening acts, the duo popped up on the screens to share a message with the crowd about being bigger, knowing your worth, and helping others. This was followed by a discussion about their partnership with World Vision International, an international humanitarian organization that allows people to sponsor children in poverty, providing them with support and education. As World Vision volunteers helped audience members to sponsor children, the atmosphere in the arena elevated. It was clear that the show would be about something bigger than the music.
As the curtains dropped and a circus decorated the stage, Sugarland belted out “Bigger,” the empowering anthem off of their new album of the same name. The crowd was already echoing and the intensity only grew as they sang hits like “All I Wanna Do” and “Stuck Like Glue.” Jennifer Nettles, who performed on Broadway as Roxie Hart in Chicago, danced through the entire set with a type of jazzy swagger that one could only learn from Bob Fosse choreography. The theatrical nature didn’t stop there, however. The lighting changes from song to song only entranced the audience more as the duo delivered hits like “Already Gone” and new releases such as “Lean It On Back” which was paired with a short rendition of “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman.
Later, Nettles sat at a piano to begin the strengthening song, “Little Miss.” As they sang the lyrics, “sometimes ya gotta lose ’til ya win, it’s alright, it’ll be alright again” the screens lit up with women of all ages writing down phrases like “I’m okay” and “I’ll be alright again” and even shifted into signs seen in the audience from past Sugarland shows, ending in a sign that stated, “You are loved.” The supportive nature of the set continued on as they took a moment to celebrate Pride month with a cover of “Galileo” by the Indigo Girls. Then, after remixing “On a Roll” with Parliament Funkadelic’s “Give Up the Funk,” Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean,” and Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” the night accelerated into hit after hit. The duo performed new hit, “Babe,” followed by “It Happens.”
The first notes of “Stay” then began, and an anticipatory hush fell over the crowd. Nettles belted out her signature song and as the notes built, so did the crowd. Deafening screams filled the arena as the song ended. The set then wrapped up with “Baby Girl” and “Something More,” but the night wasn’t over. Sugarland came back to the stage for an encore including an emotionally charged rendition of “Not the Only” and a final celebration cover of Patti LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade.” Sugarland ended the night by thanking the crowd for bringing “light and love to our hearts” and with that, the show ended. Although Sugarland may have left for a five year hiatus, it’s clear that they are back, better than ever, and ready to spread their positivity as far as it will reach.