“It’s so good to be home!” Carrie Underwood told the crowd during a tour stop at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night (Sept. 22). She has taken The Storyteller Tour: Stories In The Round to arenas across the country since January, with dates continuing through November.
Underwood packs more than 20 songs into the elaborate production, seemingly effortlessly sailing through the vocally-challenging numbers including “Blown Away,” “Two Black Cadillacs,” “Before He Cheats,” and several from her Storyteller album, including the show opener “Renegade Runaway.”
Appropriate for a concert dubbed Stories In The Round, Underwood’s massive stage stretched across the entire arena, ensuring fans on every side of the arena got a great seat. The three LED rings hanging above center stage lowered, rose, and rotated at other moments during the concert to create a dramatic focal point.
Meanwhile, Underwood was tireless in working the perimeter of the stage, allowing each audience member to have the best seat in the house. She attracted 15,000 fans to her Nashville show.
Even during moments Underwood was not onstage, there was no lack of stimulation for the audience, as members of her ace band showcased their talents. Added to that were smoke, lasers, rising stages and more to keep the audience engaged.
Props were strategically placed throughout the set. After showcasing her drumming skills during a fierce, buzz-worthy performance of “Church Bells” during the ACM Awards earlier this year, Underwood reprised her performance for the second leg of The Storyteller Tour. Later, she sang atop a jukebox illuminated with sparks during “Cowboy Casanova.”
She performed the intimate “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted,” the final track from Storyteller, perched on a piano situated at one end of the stage, as video and images of her husband and son flashed on screens hanging above center stage. A disco ball illuminated the crowd during her recent chart-topper “Heartbeat.”
Lesser entertainers might have been overtaken by such an ornate production; for Underwood, the pageantry only served to accentuate her strengths as both a vocalist and engaging entertainer.
While most Nashville crowds have come to expect a surprise superstar guest appearance or two, it was clear that Underwood didn’t need it. Instead, she showcased a wide range of musical talents, playing guitar on working person’s anthem “Smoke Break,” and holding her own during a harmonica “battle” with a band member during another Storyteller track, “Choctaw County Affair.”
She welcomed tour openers The Swon Brothers and Easton Corbin back to the stage to lead a harmony-rich, crowd sing-along of the Alabama classic “Mountain Music.”
A rare a cappella moment showcased Underwood’s voice at its most nuanced, as she led the audience in a performance of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”
“As a woman in country music, we have so many incredible women to be able to look up to,” she told the crowd. “One of those women to me is Dolly Parton. To me, she is everything. She has the career that everybody in country music wants to have, because she does everything, and she does everything so dang well. She is an incredible vocalist and entertainer and storyteller and songwriter and everybody in the world knows who she is, and she’s a nice person. In Nashville, Tennessee, I think it’s very fitting that we pay tribute to the queen.”
Parton may have accrued more decades of songwriting and touring under her belt, but it seems Underwood is paying close attention, and fashioning her own polished persona as a multi-faceted entertainer, singer, and songwriter.
But make no mistake, Underwood is a singer’s singer, and she let no opportunity to unleash her formidable voice on a high note go to waste.
While she proved more than capable on edgier fare including “Somethin’ Bad,” “Last Name,” and “Undo It,” this Nashville crowd was taken with her more inspirational material, from her 2005 debut hit “Jesus Take The Wheel,” to the powerful “Wasted.”
The show ended with the stage awash in blue laser light, as Underwood stayed center stage for a masterful, inspired rendition of her rangy 2014 hit, “Something In The Water,” complete with a snippet of “Amazing Grace.”
Over the course of the evening, it became clear that during a career that has barely spanned 10 years, Underwood has evolved into an high-caliber entertainer who not only commands her time in the spotlight, but one who relishes it.
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