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There's no place like home when Carrie Underwood's in town

April 12, 2013 - Andy Gray
Carrie Underwood has a few things in common with Dorothy Gale.

Both are country girls whose small town lives took a fantastical, unexpected turn – one from a tornado, the other from a reality show. And Underwood played up the parallel in the opening of her “Blown Away” tour, which touched down Wednesday at the Covelli Centre for her second sold-out appearance there.

With an old-style farm windmill on stage, video monitors showed a sepia-toned Underwood fleeing a tornado across the open prairie. Later in the night she soared over the crowd like the Wizard in his hot air balloon as Underwood and three of her band members performed a four-song set (“Get Out of This Town,” “Nobody Ever Told You,” “All-American Girl,” “One Way Ticket”) on a backporch-sized stage.

Underwood’s show is a massive, polished production. Shifting panels served as monitors for visual accompaniments for the songs. They could pull in to create an intimacy on the stage or pull back to make it feel even more expansive. Her seven-piece band and back-up singer also were on four sliding risers that created different looks for each song.

But despite all of the high-tech, Underwood still felt more country than many of the acts that join her on the country charts. Instead of covering rock and R&B songs like many of her contemporaries, she sang Randy Travis’ “I Told You So” (which she recorded for her album “Carnival Ride”).

During her between-song patter, Underwood said, “I do sing a lot of cheating songs. I sing country music. It happens.” And while some of those songs have a pop sheen and she sings ‘em in designer duds (there were about five outfit changes), she still comes across as pretty genuine.

Old favorites like “Jesus Take the Wheel” and “Before He Cheats” got responses just as boisterous as they did when Underwood played them at the venue in 2008. But new songs “Good Girl,” “Two Black Cadillacs” and “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun” equally were well-received.

Opening act Hunter Hayes returned to stage to sing “Leave Love Alone” with Underwood after a 45 minute set of his own that was full of pop influences. “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me” had a Jason Mraz-y feel to it, and the way Hayes syncopated his vocal to his guitar playing a last verse of “Somebody’s Heartbreak,” it sounded as if he was trying to ape Stevie Wonder.

He clearly won over many of the young women in the audience. One girl was waving a large pink sign that asked a one-word question in big black letters – “Prom?”


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