Carrie Underwood's ebbs and flows end well
By Cindy Watts • THE TENNESSEAN • December 9, 2008
Less than four years ago no one had ever heard of Carrie Underwood. And placed in that context, her Sunday night headlining performance at Sommet Center was nothing short of remarkable.
The 2005 American Idol winner pranced about her somewhat modest stage for about an hour and a half at the Nashville stop on her headlining tour, belting out 19 songs between two costume changes, hitting and sustaining notes many singers in country music wouldn't dare try. Despite that undeniable talent as a vocalist, Underwood still has room to grow as a headlining act.
Her No. 1 songs, including "Wasted," "Jesus, Take the Wheel" and "Before He Cheats," punctuated the show, but having only accumulated (a nonetheless impressive) nine radio hits at this point in her career, the singer was left to stock much of the first half of her set with album cuts, largely from her Carnival Ride CD.
The lesser-known songs slowed the pace of her show at times — with Underwood's career yet in its early stages, less-avid listeners of her CDs found themselves facing a slew of songs with which they weren't familiar. It's not that Underwood's album tracks are weak, but audience members who've become accustomed to sing-along-studded arena shows might've felt less engaged.
Underwood kicked off the show with Carnival album cut "Flat on the Floor," and of the first nine songs only three were radio singles. Since the singer didn't introduce many of the numbers to the largely family-filled crowd, less fanatic ticket-holders were left to guess if the songs were old, new or from an upcoming project.
An awkward moment came after a lengthy video montage of Underwood's career highlights, which gave the singer a chance to pull off her first costume change. Clad in a glamorous navy blue ball gown, she ascended from beneath the stage on a small platform that elevated her, as if on a pedestal, while she sang "I Know You Won't." The sequence appeared to be staged to get big applause but was met with a somewhat tepid response. However, Underwood recaptured the audience with "Jesus, Take the Wheel," before ripping the skirt of the ball gown away to reveal a shorter, form-fitting version of the dress as she sang "I Ain't In Checotah Anymore."
It was when Underwood revealed her more playful side that she seemed the most poised, at ease with the audience and arena-ready.
Before "All-American Girl," Underwood pulled a young girl from the audience to help her sing, asking the child if she knew the words. "Sort of," replied the fan, who said her name was Riley Apple. "If I put the mike up to you, can you sing 'All-American Girl'? Yes? Well, you know as much as I do," Underwood joked. The exchange was one of the evening's more memorable moments.
In setting up "The More Boys I Meet," Underwood told the near-capacity crowd, "I know there are good men out there. There's probably some in the audience tonight, and they're probably married. That's OK, there's someone out there for me."
The evening was not without its ups and downs, but considering where Underwood sat four years ago — in an Oklahoma college classroom — Sunday night's effort felt valiant and full of potential, and underlined how far the singer has come. In 2004, Underwood wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her future and tried out for American Idol on a whim.
"It worked out pretty well," she said. "One silly little decision to go try out for something I had virtually zero chance of winning, all led to this."