April 6; Columbus, Ohio—Schottenstein Center
Carrie Underwood’s latest tour, set to hit 54 cities across North America with support acts Sons of Sylvia and Craig Morgan, presents an artist who has grown into her superstar role, and arrives well-armed with a versatile “book” of material with which to showcase her ample vocal talents.
“This show has felt really comfortable since the first night,” said Underwood backstage. “Yes, there’s a few things we tweaked, but there’s so much going on up there including lots of special moments that we look forward to onstage.”
The set and costumes designed by Michael Cotten and Soyon An are a monument to the contrast between simplicity and infinite variation. A two-story, gazebo-like steel grid framework shapes the stage, also making extensive use of video screens to change the atmosphere from a gurgling country brook to an indoor botanical garden and more. Center stage, a rotating pedestal provides dramatic entrances and exits with each rise and descent. Ms. Underwood’s stylish fashion infatuation included more than 10 costume changes (with matching stilettos) throughout the show.
Most notable was how the rich staging and costumes became almost invisible behind the singer’s pitch-perfect prowess. With power songs such as “Jesus Take The Wheel,” “American Girl,” “Cowboy Casanova,” “Undo It,” “Before He Cheats,” and more, it would be easy to overwhelm. This tour, however, proves that the young woman, thrust overnight into national prominence via the American Idol platform, has matured and learned to control her instrument like a skilled heart surgeon. During one intense vocal moment, displayed on a pedestal, on her knees Carrie seemingly beat her chest trying to force out maximum emotion. The crowd reacted like bees in a hive, emoting and buzzing in sync with the performance.
Special moments were abundant. Standouts included a Grand Ole Opry-themed video duet with Randy Travis, “I Told You So” which poured like rich wine. “Just a Dream” found Ms. Underwood riding an idyllic country swing suspended from a massive tree branch. For “Country Roads,” the diminutive blonde jumped in the back of a deep blue pickup truck which climbed above the crowd and drove deep toward the back of the room, giving all fans a front row view. And then there was the incredible antebellum “video” dress, backdrop for the moving ballad “Change.” The dress became a video screen, bathing the singer in an aura of warm lights and emotional tones that might also translate beautifully for an Award show performance.
Craig Morgan also contributed to the evening. A dramatic entrance from the back of the arena showcased his vocal and entertainer skills. Well received were hits such as “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester,” and “That’s What I Love About Sunday.” Morgan’s cover of Lionel Richie’s Commodores hit “Easy,” was a surprise standout. The likable military veteran moved into the crowd frequently getting strong applause for his efforts. Morgan appears to be on the verge of striking it rich, needing only a few more song nuggets to string together to create a headline show.
“Carrie’s now enjoying every aspect of her career,” said Sony Music Nashville Chairman Joe Galante. “She’s finally gotten to that place, personally and professionally, and it shows on stage.” The sold out Columbus crowd demanded an encore, and this writer heartily agreed.