It’s pretty neat when your all-grown-up daughter requests you join her and her friend for an evening out to see a show. My darling girl even bought my ticket to the event: a concert by American Idol’s own Carrie Underwood.
We had been to one of Carrie’s shows last year, and it was a simple, yet impressive, display — just Carrie and her band up there under the lights. Really, the girl could sing. She proved she was not one of those lip-syncing pop star bimbos who gained fame by licking their lips and swivelin’ their hips. Her true talent shone through, which was not a great surprise. After all, she wowed the usually blase Simon Cowell with her impressive set of pipes. Proof positive that her fame is well deserved.
So why was last week’s performance less mighty than it could have been?
The problem was that the spectacle overwhelmed the music. Behind the band were screens displaying country scenes, city scenes, blue skies, babbling brooks, Carrie and her Golden Ticket, Carrie and her mom, Carrie and her hockey player husband to be. If that were not enough, onstage were rising stairs, dry ice, a Grand Ole Opry microphone, and way up in the rafters (gasp!) a blue pickup truck that flew Carrie around the arena.
Now all this would have been fine if Carrie were not the singer she is. I really wanted to focus on the music and Carrie’s folksy charm, but my attention kept getting pulled away by the window dressing.
She started the show with the sneering “Cowboy Casanova”, rising from the floor of the stage on a silver platform, like a country-western goddess. Between the costume changes (of which there were many), Carrie ran through a slew of hits and fan favorites such as “Some Hearts” “This Time”, “What Can I Say” (aided by protege band Sons of Sylvia), “Jesus Take The Wheel”(which segued into “How Great Thou Art”), and the three hanky worthy “Temporary Home”.
She was jovial, funny, and possessed a boatload of stage presence. At one point, she accompanied herself on guitar but seemed oddly uncomfortable doing so. More unnecessary window dressing.
The performance I was hoping for arrived early in the set. It should have come later to offset the excess. Still, for those four minutes there was just the woman, the song and the reverent hush of the crowd. Carrie sat on those shimmery silver steps, lifted the microphone to her lips, and poured her heart into the ballad “I Know You Won’t”. The rendition was gorgeous, sweeping, and filled with a passion not many country-pop crooners know how to wring out of a tune these days. There was no dry ice, no fireworks on the screens. There was just Carrie Underwood and her voice. And that was enough.