Not many artists are better and more powerful live than on albums, thanks to things like autotune and electronically manufactured instruments. Carrie Underwood is a big exception.
Fans became privy to this fact at the Mullins Center on Saturday night during Underwood’s second appearance at the University of Massachusetts. The 2005 winner of “American Idol” sang songs from each of her three albums, and even brought the crowd back to the “Summer of ‘69.”
Underwood was preceded by two openers, Sons of Sylvia and Craig Morgan. Both acts are obviously great performers, but Sons of Sylvia really shone when they took the stage during Underwood’s set to sing a duet in “What Can I Say?” with lead singer Ashley Clark’s raspy voice meshing well with Underwood’s falsetto.
Craig Morgan elicited a surprising crowd reaction. Many in the plaid-shirted, cowboy hat-adorned audience seemingly knew the words to many of his tunes, including current single, “This Ain’t Nothin’,” a touching song about overcoming loss.
Morgan is fairly well-known in the country genre due to his well-performed “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” a favorite of Saturday’s crowd which hit the top of country charts in 2005. Unfortunately, he’s not recognized much out of the country spectrum, but if the crowd’s reaction to him Saturday was any indication, he’s sure to be popular elsewhere someday.
Despite all of the positive feedback the two opening acts received, ear-piercing screams hit an all-time high the very moment the lights went down after an intermission, signaling Underwood’s entrance.
To the former number one U.S. Billboard Hot Country Song, “Cowboy Casanova,” Underwood rose from beneath the floor on a plush couch. She was decked out in a glittering tuxedo, the first of her six outfits.
Other outfits included a red suit, a blue ball gown, a remarkably short mini (about which Underwood herself said “No more can come off this!”) and a fiber-optically enhanced dress, which the audience saw during “Change.” A visually amazing feature, the dress echoed the happenings taking place on the massive screen behind Underwood – a fireworks show. The dress seemed awfully hard to move in, but no one appeared to notice.
Various portions of the show called Underwood’s private life to attention. The most obvious aspect was during the stirring “Mama’s Song.” Underwood took to a large, rotating piano at center stage. The featured background was a slideshow of various family pictures of Underwood and her mother, from infancy through present day. In tune with Underwood’s recent winter engagement to fiancé Mike Comrie Fisher, the ballad was about a mother’s youngest finding someone who treats her right. The crowd erupted when a photo of Underwood and Comrie Fisher appeared, ending the song.
Another aspect of her relationship was put on display during the second song, “Quitter.” While it was performed well, the whirring slot-machine background was enough to make anyone dizzy. During the song, which is ironically about being a quitter in relationships, the monitors featured a sweeping shot of the singer, lingering for a moment on the massive rock on her left hand.
The concert was punctuated with simultaneous audience hand clapping and singing along. During one song in particular, “Temporary Home,” which Underwood introduced as “one of my favorite songs ever,” the singer seemed overcome with emotion at the end, and the crowd’s voices seemed louder than her own.
The only small lull came in the middle of the show, when Underwood performed a series of ballads. They were visually appealing, with Underwood donning a beautiful blue ball gown and swinging from a rope swing in the middle of stage.
Any essence of a respite was brought to a screeching halt when Underwood took to the bed of a small, bedazzled truck that flew from a suspended track out into the middle of the audience during a cover of “Country Roads Take Me Home,” a song heard at the Mullins Center many times before, though usually at hockey games, never in this fashion.
It’s was obvious that Underwood loves to perform, even before she admitted she loves every song on every album she’s made. From powerful ballads like “Just a Dream” and her virtual duet with Randy Travis, “I Told You So,” to “Before He Cheats” and “Undo It,” which can’t be described as anything less than badass, all eyes were locked on the diminutive singer all night.
A clearly exceptional artist, Carrie Underwood provided an amazing evening at the Mullins Center on Saturday night. Even Simon Cowell would have been proud.
Kate MacDonald can be reached at [email protected]