Sugarland offers music with message

YOUNGSTOWN — It was music with a message that country megastars Sugarland brought to fans via their first new album in about seven years — and to the Covelli Centre stage after a five-year hiatus.

The duo opened the Youngstown concert on their comeback tour Friday night with the title track from the new album, “Bigger.” But that wasn’t the first time the crowd inside the Youngstown venue heard from the pair that evening.

The duo, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, appeared by video during intermission between acts to speak about the meaning behind the song, and their urging for society to do “bigger” things for humanity. The two provided an opportunity right then and there by inviting the audience to text child sponsorship donations to World Vision, a Christian organization fighting worldwide poverty.

Important messages from Nettles and Bush didn’t stop there.

They performed “Tuesday’s Broken,” another song on the new album written by Bush and Nettles, in the hope of sending a message about love and parenting — all in response to school shootings and bullying in America.

And later in Friday’s show, Nettles reminded the audience that “words matter,” before the duo broke into a moving performance of “Tony,” a song written by Patty Griffin about teen suicide. Behind them, facts about teen suicide — particularly high among gay, lesbian and transgender kids — flashed on a video screen while they sang.

Of course, Friday’s show wasn’t all serious. Nettles used her distinctive voice accompanied by Bush’s prowess on stringed instruments to perform many of the hits that helped propel them into superstardom dating back to 2004. Those included “All I Want To Do,” “Stuck Like Glue,” “Already Gone,” “Stay,” “Little Miss,” “Something More” and “Settlin’.”

They also rocked on a jazzy cover of “Lady Marmalade,” and Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean.”

During the recently ended five-year break, in which Nettles gave birth to her first child, both she and Bush had spent time doing solo work. Friday, each took the stage individually to showcase a couple of their solo tracks. Bush sang, “Trailer Hitch,” and Nettles performed, “Unlove You.”

The duo reunited on stage to perform songs from their newest album, including “Bird in a Cage,” and recent hit “Babe,” written by Taylor Swift, with whom they collaborated for the song on the album.