As an avid Sugarland fan, the announcement of Jennifer Nettles on the C2C line-up was an incredibly exciting prospect and she was one of my most anticipated acts. Her latest album ‘Playing With Fire’ was a stunning record, consistent quality from start to finish, and I was looking forward to experiencing the power of Jennifer’s vocal and her memorable repertoire in a concert environment. You hear Jennifer on the record, you watch her live performances online, but nothing quite prepares you for what she provides at a show. I’ve said for many years she’s the best female vocalist in country music and C2C has done nothing to change that opinion.
She strutted on stage with her signature swagger to the title track ‘Playing With Fire’, with her band ripping into the rocky melody with great power. This is a real ‘taking no sh**’ song – a rebellious, care-free, empowering track that showcases Jennifer’s sassy side like no other. A perfect way to open the main stage at C2C. Then, she took us back in time with the Sugarland classic ‘Baby Girl’ which provoked a great reaction from the crowd, many of whom were clearly big Sugarland fanatics. This was another moment, much like the CMA Songwriters Series, where I half-expected Kristian to walk out but it just wasn’t meant to be! This was followed by another track from her latest album, ‘Drunk In Heels’, co-written with Brandy Clark. Melodically reminiscent of Brandy’s ‘Stripes’, as Jennifer said this is another “one for the girls” addressing the trials and tribulations of being a woman in modern society, but it’s done in such a quirky, fun way. A great track that had much of the O2 on their feet.
Jennifer delighted the crowd with her infectious new single ‘Hey Heartbreak’, before giving us probably one of the performances of the weekend with ‘Unlove You’. Backed by an acoustic guitar, all it took was “I could break down and cry”….and that’s exactly what I did! A spine-tingling performance that gave us everything we needed to know about Jennifer’s voice. Utterly flawless from start to finish, with such powerful projection and unrivalled emotion. ‘Stay’, another Sugarland favourite, had a similar effect; Jennifer really comes into her own on the ballads. The crispness of her voice and the passion in her delivery is a joy to witness.
Her cover of Tears For Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’, of course, went down incredibly well in front of a British crowd and she completely made it her own with a very soulful, groovy take on a classic. She then completed her set with fan favourite ‘Something More’ as the O2 rose to their feet in appreciation for what was an incredibly memorable C2C show. In all honesty, it’s a travesty that someone like Jennifer Nettles only gets 9 songs; she totally dominated the stage and I could have watched her for so much longer. Hopefully she’ll return very soon for her own tour; this was a simply brilliant 40 minutes.
Dan Wharton (@LifeInASong_Dan)