On March 18th, a friend and I went out on the three hour drive to Bloomington, IL to have the opportunity to see Sugarland, Little Big Town, and Casey James perform at the US Cellular Coliseum and let me tell you…the long drive was definitely worth it! The show was incredible. Even though Casey is no longer on the tour, if you are a country music fan make sure to get yourself out to the show if it is near you – you will have a great time!
We were able to speak with Casey James a few days before the show and being the great and genuine guy that he is, he only had good things to say. Casey was the third finalist on the 9th season of American Idol. You could remember him as the contestant that judge, Kara DioGuardi, swooned over or the talented country boy that never separated from his guitar. “The show was great, one of the greatest experiences in my life and definitely the most door-opening of experiences. I learned a lot throughout the process: mainly how to keep focused on my goals in a busy and changing environment”, Casey said of the show.
Anyone that watched American Idol last season is familiar with the story of how Casey was in an accident and how the doctors told him that he would not be able to gain enough strength and control in his arm to play guitar again. These words of discouragement did not stop him though, he knew what his passion was and he wasn’t going to let anything stop him. “It was never an option for me to not play guitar. If I needed to learn to play guitar with my feet then I would have done that. I’m just blessed that I was allowed to keep my arm and had the strength and ability to relearn to play”. Casey also gave words of encouragement for those going through tough circumstances such as his, “Keep a positive attitude and know that good can come from any situation no matter how bad it seems. You can make it through”. Being able to see Casey live with his guitar, a person cannot even tell that he ever had trouble with his arm; he is a natural on stage with his guitar… or should I say guitars! Casey switched guitars before every song during his 30 minute set, stating with a laugh that every time he gets a new one he makes sure to use it on stage.
Since coming off of the show, Casey has been busy recording his debut release in Nashville. “The album is coming along great. I’m excited and honored to be working with the people I’m working with. I’m super excited to share the finished product with everyone”, he said of the whole recording process. When asked when we could expect the release Casey laughed and said, “Great question!” we could either assume that he isn’t sure of the release yet or he knows and has to keep it a secret. He did however give us more insight on the album, “For me the writing process has its ups and downs. I’ve been writing since I started playing guitar. Sometimes the words come easily and sometimes they don’t. I tend to write how I’m feeling or write about past life experiences. I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing writers from Nashville that have helped me sharpen my skills as a writer”.
Being involved with this tour, Casey only had good things to say about Sugarland and Little Big Town and the opportunity itself. “Everything I’ve done in my life up till now has led me here, to this great opportunity. I feel very honored and privileged to have this chance to be involved with this tour. Sugarland and Little Big Town are both amazing bands as well as amazing people and their fans are no different. It’s awesome to have an opportunity to play for them”. Casey mixed up his set with both slow and fast paced songs that got the crowd to dance and cheer in support. “To be on that stage in front of that crowd is such a thrill. I’m super proud of the music and my band. In the past I’ve played a lot of shows but never had the opportunity to perform my original music to such large audiences night after night. It’s the best part of my life. There’s really no other way to say it”. Casey has finished up with his leg of the Sugarland tour but promises that there will be “lots more great music, lots of live shows, and lots of fun” coming up throughout the next year.
For those out there that aspire to have a singing career or just to have a happy life while following their dreams, Casey had something to say: “I recommend that people always follow their hearts. In my mind success is achieved by loving what you do. I spent 11 years playing hard gigs any place I could. I was always broke, but I was always happy. I feel like if there’s a chance someone can take to get closer to their goals, they should do it. For me that chance was American Idol”.
After Casey’s wonderful performance, Little Big Town took the stage and started it off with a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” that got the crowd singing along. They all looked so happy to be up on that stage playing their hit songs such as ‘Little White Church’, ‘Bring It on Home’, and ‘Boondocks’. The crowd absolutely loved them and there is no doubt as to why, not only did Little Big Town take every chance they had to reach out and connect with their fans during the show: waving and blowing a kiss to a mother holding her baby, touching all the hands of those that were up against the stage in the pit, taking fans cameras and taking pictures from the stage (and of course returning the cameras to their owners!), but they also had great stage presence that was naturally and enjoyable.
To top off the night, Sugarland started off the show with ‘All We Are’ and ‘Stuck Like Glue’ which got the crowd to scream, dance, and sing – great foreshadowing of the set they were about to hear. Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are the perfect duo to watch live. They are always grinning from ear to ear (or making silly faces), dancing, and laughing together. The happiness and joy that the band gets from being on stage and singing their songs travels through every fan in the audience: creating the perfect environment and mood for the night. They also made a little girls night extra special when Kristian and Jennifer signed an acoustic guitar to give away and Kristian went down into the crowd and spotted her with her mom and handed the guitar to her while her mother looked on with a huge smile on her face and tears in her eyes. It was just another reason for the crowd to fall in love with the wonderful duo.
Songs such as “All I Want To Do”, “Little Miss”, and “Baby Girl” as well as the mash up of ‘Everyday America’ and cover songs like Cee Lo Green’s ‘Forget You’ got the crowd buzzing with energy. Then it got brought down with the slow and beautiful song, “Stay”, which Jennifer did an amazing job channeling that powerful emotion through to everyone.
For the encore, the band brought out a white flag and while the slow ‘Incredible Machine’ intro was playing Jennifer wrote ‘LOVE’ on it then passed it down for it to be walked to the back of the audience while they sang ‘Stand Up’. To conclude the show, Little Big Town came out and joined Sugarland with a cover of ‘Like a Prayer’ by the lovely Madonna.
The Incredible Machine Tour is a tour that you do not want to miss if you’re a country fan and especially if you are a fan of Sugarland and Little Big Town – it will blow you away. It is also a great excuse to dance your butt off with your friends or strangers and have a drink (if you’re of age of course!). There are plenty more dates on this tour and I hope that this review has convinced you to go to one of them!