Sugarland puts the set list in fans’ hands
By Susan Stapleton
Fans of Sugarland are in for a real treat when they take to the beach at Mandalay Bay on Sept. 2. This will be like no show the country crossover duo has performed in their 10-year career.
“It was a rather a big idea we had when we started,” says Kristian Bush, one half of Sugarland with Jennifer Nettles. After brainstorming how to put together a show that combined the magic of a rock show with the theater, the duo came up with the In Your Hands tour, an all-request show.
“When are you ever onstage and you don’t know what’s going to happen next? Why don’t we see what happens,” Bush says of the show.
They had to set up rules for the show. First, any song was fair game as long as it appears on any of Sugarland’s albums or either of the performers played the song anywhere in the past. Up until two days before the show, fans can vote on the songs they want to hear on the band’s website. They’ll even take write-in votes if fans can convince them to play the song. Fans can then tweet or text their requests, or even write down a favorite on a piece of paper submitted at the door. Then fans can write their requests on giant signs that Bush and Nettles can see during the show. “Some of the show is sourced from online, Twitter and texts. A good part of the show is picked out from what’s on a sign,” Bush says.
That makes for an interesting set list. Bush, talking on the phone from Tampa before a show there, says the set list in Boston included “Little Miss,” surprise request “Every Girl Like Me,” Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Run” and “Sex on Fire” from the Kings of Leon. “The fun part comes when you kind of randomly choose a name of someone who requested the song and call them out,” Bush says.
During rehearsals for the tour, Bush says, the real challenge was remembering all 104 songs from their catalog. “We’ve spent the past 10 years being perfect. Maybe perfect is boring,” he says.
“When you start to allow yourself to make mistakes, the show has become something you can’t forget.”
In Vegas, Bush recommends that fans make the signs very large since the water of Mandalay Bay Beach is between the stage and fans. “I may have to run through the crowd to collect them by hand,” he says. “We love playing where they celebrate shows. One of the things we take a lot of pride in is putting together a great show. We had dreams of parking The Incredible Machine (their fourth album) in Vegas for a while. We’ve always dreamed of what’s its like to make it so your bed doesn’t roll at night.”
For now, it seems Sugarland will take some time off when the tour finishes. Nettles married longtime boyfriend Justin Miller last November and she’s due this November with their first child, two months after the tour ends. “We need to take some time off so Jennifer can get her mom legs on.”