I could see something was moving behind the curtain, and then two silhouettes appeared.
On the left, holding a microphone and dancing, was Jennifer Nettles.
On the right, playing his guitar, was Kristian Bush.
My wife — proving she’s the World’s Best Wife, Part the Infinity (h/t Charlie Pierce) — had bought the tickets for my birthday. We had parked, eaten dinner, walked to the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, taken our seats and heard Frankie Ballard finish his seat … but it all became real when those two silhouettes appeared on the curtain.
I was about to see Sugarland.
How do you choose a favorite band?
It’s not like choosing a favorite sports team, where maybe it’s family (the Yankees), because you like a certain player (Fernando Torres when he was at Liverpool) or you live there (pretty much everyone I live near in Massachusetts and the Red Sox).
But there aren’t any logical ways to choose a favorite band or singer, and music is so varied that two people who are otherwise in tune (pun completely accidental) might diverge wildly — like how one of my dearest friends loves Dave Matthews Band and I’ve never had any use for them.
So why Sugarland?
For starters, I think ”Just Might (Make Me Believe)” is just about a perfect song. It is a passionate, emotional song that is brilliantly performed.
The final section — with what I assume is a key change and Nettles just letting loose — makes me stop what I’m doing to make sure I don’t miss it. (It’s the same reason, with Christopher Jackson, why “One Last Time” is my favorite song from “Hamilton.”)
But there has to be more than that.
I don’t even know if I can explain it, but there’s something about the music that just resonates with me to the point where I have almost 60 songs of theirs on my phone, and that whenever I want to feel better, get through a long day, relax on a flight or just be happy, I just start playing and let them take me away.
And maybe that’s the point.
(Not my video. I wasn’t close enough for that. It’s from a YouTube user named Chey.)
So as for the show, of course it was awesome. How could it not be? (Yes, I’m ridiculously biased, but my wife, who is not nearly as familiar with Sugarland and said she may have been the only wife “dragged” to the show by her husband, said she also really liked it.)
It was a rarity for concerts I go to — not that I go to all that many — in that it was a concert where I knew all the songs, most of them really well.
As it turned out there were two I didn’t know — the song they performed in support of LGBTQ youth (apparently “Tony” by Patty Griffin, which I’m not familiar with), and Bush’s “Trailer Hitch,” as I haven’t followed his solo efforts like I’ve followed Nettles’.
And there was an interesting dichotomy, at least in my mind. On the one hand, a lot of people I know are aware of and like Sugarland, but not everyone, and it was nice to be among thousands of people who felt the same I way I do.
On the other hand, I’m far too reserved to dance or sing like a lot of the people in the crowd were doing, but I was getting into the music in my seat and mouthing a lot of the words and getting so engrossed in the music that even though I knew of all the people who were there, it’s like I didn’t even notice them.
Five years ago, they split up to pursue solo projects — Bush referred to it as a “vacation” on state — and I just figured that was the end. They wouldn’t be the first group to ever take a break and never get back together, especially if one of them hits it big as a solo artist.
I have both of Nettles’ solo albums, and think of “Salvation Works” in much the same way as “Just Might (Make Me Believe).”
I even saw her live at South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset, Massachusetts, and if Sugarland never did get back together, figured there are a lot worse things in life than a series of brilliant albums by Jennifer Nettles.
And then she and Bush decided to see if it still worked.
And it still did.
And I was at the show last night in Worcester.
Nettles is a wonderful artist and I’m sure I’d like Bush’s stuff if I explored it more, but Sugarland is just … different, and not just because there were in a 14,000-seat arena and not a theater-in-the-round that seats 2,300.
I hope they stay together, and that this album and tour isn’t a last hurrah.
But if it is, I can always remember those two silhouettes on the curtain.