By Patty Fantasia
Singer/Songwriter Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland fame appeared at the House of Blues in Las Vegas on Thursday, April 3rd as part of her tour promoting her first solo album Be That Girl. Flashing her trademark warm smile and blond locks she took the stage and opened the show with the title song. It has less of a country vibe and more of a Caribbean feel to it, which didn’t come as much of a surprise since Nettles has been saying in interviews that her main motivation for spreading her wings at this time has been her need for professional growth. Produced by Rick Rubin, Jennifer co-wrote 11 of the 12 songs on the album with the assistance of such talents as Richard Marx, Sara Bareilles and Phillip Sweet and the finished product is an eclectic blending of sounds and feelings showcasing a gamut of emotions as well as her diverse vocal range. Reinforcing the sentiment of her desire to dabble with different types of music she told the audience that career wise she is here for the long haul.
Singer/Songwriter Jennifer Nettles
Jennifer followed “Be That Girl” with another selection from the new album called “Moneyball” before whetting the appetite of her Sugarland fans with the band’s debut single “Baby Girl.” In addition, Nettles also included other Sugarland hits “Something More” and my personal favorite “Stay,” a ballad about adultery that demonstrates the amazing power of Nettles voice as she evokes a wealth of heartfelt emotions. In all honesty, I would have been happy had she performed a few more Sugarland songs such as “Want To” or “Down in Mississippi” (Up to No Good), but perhaps her greatest strength as a singer is how she can play so many parts with her music the way a thespian does with acting and that’s definitely how she comes across with the new material. Watching her go through all these changes as she performs is like being invited on a special journey and I was impressed and delighted to be a part of it. In this case it’s worth it to buy the ticket and take the ride. Sort of like catching up with an old friend and reliving youthful memories while experiencing new adventures. Nettles’ openness and casual style as an artist invites you in capturing your thoughts while you become immersed in her emotionally intoxicating stories about life.
Recent hits “Me Without You” and “Falling” followed with Jennifer commenting, “my roots are showing in the best way” referring to the diversity of her recent efforts encompassing gospel, 70’s radio and country western, “My roots are showing in the best way.” The approximately 90 minute set continued with an Ambrosia cover of the 70’s hit “Biggest Part of Me” and a few lyrics from Barry Manilow’s “Weekend in New England” revealing Nettles’ obvious admiration for the man who has played such an important role in the music industry. Ironically she fused her homage to Manilow with a simple and sweet song from the new album entitled “This One’s For You”, which was also the name of another one of Barry’s hits.
Jennifer Nettles on stage performing with Brandy Clark
Spicing it up a bit Jennifer continued on with “Jealousy” a song she described as the story of a “woman coming to terms with a shadowy side of herself.” Definitely more provocative than most of her pieces “Jealousy” allowed Nettles to musically visit a somewhat darker place. The acoustic ballad “This Angel” which Jennifer explained is “the most intimate song for her on the album” came next and it was one of the highlights of the night. Moving afterwards into what she said might be called the prequel to that song she launched into “All I Want to Do.” Co-written by her with then Sugarland members Kristian Bush and Bobby Pinson, it was released in May 2008 as the first single from their Love on the Inside album and went on to become their third Number One hit.
Jennifer then performed the “sexiest song of the evening”, “Good Time To Cry” a standout that once again gave her the chance to show off the strength of her vocal chords while touching fans in the heart strings. Adding a little more variation to the concert she did a cover of the Imagine Dragons hit “Demons” then was joined onstage by opening act Brandy Clark for the 12th track of the new album “His Hands.” Nettles followed with her final number “Know You Want To Know,” before ending the evening with her encore number “Thank You” a musical love letter of appreciation to her fans and a rousing cover of Bob Segar’s “Like a Rock.”
Before joining Nettles on stage show opener Brandy Clark, who is perhaps better known for her songwriting talents rather than her singing skills at the moment, performed a 30 minute solo acoustic set. However, this situation is bound to change soon since her debut album 12 Stories has been so well received by both music fans and critics alike. Some of the songs in her set included the popular chart topper by the Band Perry that she wrote “Better Dig Two” and the quirky “Get High” and “Stripes.”
Jennifer Nettles with Patty Fantasia and her fiancee Jeff Grinstein