Jennifer Nettles has the twangiest voice on country radio. But her duo, Sugarland, has the most unabashed pop influences of any current country act. How does that compute?

On Friday night at Target Center, not only did Sugarland play hits by Madonna, R.E.M., Kings of Leon and the B-52's, but the duo used such proven pop tricks as waving glowsticks (N' Sync), blowing bubbles (Lady GaGa) and having the two singers travel over the crowd inside giant plastic balls (Flaming Lips). Sugarland even opened with an anthemic ballad (its own "Love") that soared like a U2 classic. This smartly blended pop/country confection gave the crowd of 8,200 a big rush as Sugarland put on the best commercial country concert of 2009 thus far.

Fedora-wearing mandolinist/guitarist Kristian Bush, 39, plays second fiddle in this hat act. Nettles, 34, who wore a sequined red beret for part of the show, is the main attraction. Her twangy-as-Dolly-Parton voice was strong, passionate and soulful, but equally important, she seems to be genuinely having more fun on an arena stage than any other woman in country music. Her hyperkinetic energy and sweaty joy were unstoppably infectious. The crowd stood for the entire 95-minute set and sang along to nearly every song.

For their second headline appearance in the Twin Cities, Sugarland stepped up the production with a semicircle video screen backdrop, lanterns that descended periodically from the rafters, lights that simulated falling snow and other effects. The duo did a stripped-down segment featuring the bluegrass-flavored "Genevieve" (with its echo of "Long Black Veil") and the new unrecorded "Blood on Snow," a dark-rock number. The hit "Everyday America" found a reggae undercurrent before Nettles improvised a bit from Madonna's "Into the Groove" and "Holiday," followed by the Emotions' "Best of My Love." Maybe those flashbacks were sparked by Nettles making a fuss over a fan's sign asking Bush to a prom. Actually, Nettles and Bush did more planned dances together on Friday than in previous Twin Cities appearances, a strategy which seemed a tad contrived.

Some of Sugarland's songs were hopelessly lightweight ear-candy, including "All I Want to Do" with its sing-along "do-oo-oo" refrain. But the duo also had several songs of substance, most notably the acoustic ballad "Stay," which made Nettles all misty-eyed and tugged at fans' heart- strings. And Nettles poured so much passion into her performance that she made even something like rock-darlings Kings of Leon's slow-burn "Sex on Fire" -- which was probably unknown to most everybody at Target Center -- into a special Sugarland treat.

For a set list, Jon Bream • 612-673-1719