Carrie Underwood shines in New Hampshire

A review of Carrie Underwood at the Verizon Wireless Arena on November 6, 2010

, Editor-in-Chief

Carrie Underwood, the two-time reigning ACM Entertainer of the Year, has proved why she has earned that accolade with this year’s wildly successful Play On tour. Returning to New England for the final time in support of the album with the same name, Underwood delivered an entertaining night of country pop that mixed just enough style and substantive.

Rising from a platform underneath the stage, Underwood began the show with a bang in “Cowboy Casanova”. Just as she does on Play On, Underwood quickly continued the show with the fun mid temp “Quitter”.

The show had all the types of major league production you would expect from a pop superstar. The stage was big, the screens pumped out a  variety of images, the microphones were bedazzled and of course there was some confetti and streamers at the end. It was also a fashion show of sorts as the outfit changes were often and plentiful (eight or so, one of which lit up). It all paled in comparison when midway through the set, Underwood flew through the crowd in a flying blue sparkling pick-up truck with her name spelled out on the back. After singing John Denver’s “Country Road, Take Me Home” (odd yet funny as it was intended), Underwood quipped that the flying truck came after her management asked what she wanted for the tour. She continued to fly over the crowd for “This Time” before returning to level ground for a rousing run through “Undo It”.

For the most part, the production did not take away from the show. There were a couple of exceptions, notably during a pair of Underwood’s best songs “Just a Dream” and “Temporary Home”. The problem was not just the cheesy swing set that came during the first song but the bright, pink, puffy dress that she wore during both. It was just too much of a distraction for two beautifully written songs that deserved a more simple approach. Strapping on an electric guitar and barely playing it for “Some Hearts” was also forgettable, at least when she took on the acoustic for “American Girl”, the crowd took over with a jovial sing-along.

The real showcase of the night, as it should be, was Underwood’s undeniably outstanding vocal range. The gal from Oklahoma can just plain sing. Underwood can mix the high-temp pop anthems like “Undo It” and the country-fueled power ballads like “So Small” with ease. She absolutely nailed the climaxes of each of her ballads and beautifully added the hymn “How Great Thou Art” onto the end of “Jesus Take The Wheel”. On “What Can I Say”, she was joined by openers Sons of Sylvia while Randy Travis appeared virtually for “I Told You So” as Underwood attempted to bring the New Hampshire crowd down to to the Grand Old Opry in Nashville.

Underwood sat at the piano to deliver her latest single, “Mama’s Song” which was accompanied by a slideshow of  photos from childhood up to her recent wedding. Sporting another new dress, she then kicked it up a notch for set-closer “Last Name”. The two-song encore began with “Before He Cheats”, which sparked a massive sing-along from the ladies in the house. Underwood brought the night to a close with “Songs Like This”, in which she added a few lines of Miranda Lambert’s “White Liar” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”.

Despite a surprisingly lackluster crowd, Underwood delivered an enjoyable show that showcased her remarkable voice. She’s come a long way since winning American Idol just 6 years ago,  “I did what any nervous college senior would do, try out for a reality TV show” she jokingly recalled at one point on Saturday. Needless to say, they move paid off and certainly has many more years to come.

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