Photos: Sugarland and Sara Bareilles sweeten Mandalay Bay Events Center

Sugarland, with guest Sara Bareilles, at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Aug. 27, 2011.
Photo: Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

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Sugarland at Mandalay Bay Events Center

Sugarland @ Mandalay Bay

Sugarland, with guest Sara Bareilles, at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Aug. 27, 2011.

Sugarland, with guest Sara Bareilles, at Mandalay Bay Events Center on Aug. 27, 2011.

Last night was ladies’ night at Mandalay Bay Events Center as a crowd of mostly co-eds, couples and soccer moms packed the 12,000-seat venue for Sugarland’s Incredible Machine tour stop. The duo -- Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush -- have been a fixture in country music since their debut album, Twice the Speed of Life, landed in 2004, paving the way for a pair of Grammys, five No. 1 singles and sales exceeding 9 million copies.

Sugarland is one of the best-selling live acts in their genre, and it’s easy to see why. Opening their set with “All We Are,” the lead track off their album Incredible Machine, set an up-tempo tone that engaged the audience in call-and-response shouts of “we are” throughout the song’s refrain.

The show included six more songs from Machine in a tour designed to bring the Steampunk-themed album to life. A once-elaborate stage show, accompanied by Victorian-era costuming, was destroyed two weeks ago by winds that collapsed an outdoor stage before the band was to play the Indiana State Fair.

Last night’s show was void of the high-end production that has become requisite for many modern tours, but it lacked nothing. Nettles shined as lead vocalist and entertainer as she masterfully navigated through hits “Settlin’,” “All I Want to Do” and “It Happens” with an exaggerated dynamism reminiscent of Reba McEntire.

The often-overlooked Bush proved as much a force as Nettles, offering more to the show than his role as background vocalist and instrumentalist might suggest. He won the crowd over working both ends of the stage, giving away an autographed guitar and pulling a young boy up from the floor to playfully pluck away at his electric guitar.

Together, Nettles and Bush pack a 1-2 punch more powerful than any duo in music. Incredible, indeed. The 17-song, 85-minute set also included medleys of their song “Everyday America” with “Forget You” by Cee-Lo Green, “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton and “Bootylicious” by Beyonce, as well as “Find the Beat Again” with “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.

Fans received an additional treat with three-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles offering support on the bill. Her eight-song, 40-minute set included singles “Love Song,” “King of Anything” and “Uncharted.” She introduced “Gonna Get Over You,” the follow-up single to “Uncharted,” by asking the crowd, “How many in the room tonight have a douche bag in your life that you’re trying to get rid of? This is a song about that.”

Known for her unapologetic take on real-life situations and her sometimes-crass persona, Bareilles proved a worthy entertainer who should be a consistent headliner in no time. She later returned to the stage alongside Sugarland for an encore cover of Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s hit “Come on Eileen."

Though the Incredible Machine may have been a show for the ladies, for this journalist, good music knows no gender. Thanks to Justin M. Bowen of Las Vegas Sun and Tom Donoghue for their photos galleries from the concert.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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