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Monday, October 11, 2010

Concert review: Carrie Underwood sparkles with charming naiveté at Dallas' American Airlines Center

From The Dallas Morning News...

Gotta hand it to Carrie Underwood: She and her tour engineers pulled off something downright amazing Saturday night at American Airlines Center. About two-thirds of the way through her 100-minute set, the country singer-songwriter rode out high above the audience standing in the bed of a bright blue pickup. Yes, a flying truck. Take that, Phantom of the Opera chandelier.

Somehow, despite the inherent silliness of the whole idea, it not only worked, it was perfect. Such is the power of the Underwood charm.

It appeared to be a nearly sold-out arena, and the crowd tossed wave after wave of adoration at Underwood, as well as at her opening acts, Sons of Sylvia and Billy Currington. Sons of Sylvia is a great country band, but not so great a heavy rock band. The trio of brothers veered all over the place stylistically; they need to settle into an identity. Billy Currington, on the other hand, is country through-and-through and has Toby Keith-like stardom potential, but without Keith's bombastic ego.

As for Underwood, her stage presence has improved greatly since the last time I saw her in late 2008. She still seems uncomfortable with instruments (she played electric guitar on one song, acoustic on another, piano on a third). She should probably just stick to the vocals. But she's gotten much better at crowd interaction and physically reflecting the moods of the songs.

Glamour and glitz were the order of the night; the sparkle factor, especially in the costume department, was off the charts. Someone clearly loves the Bedazzler. But underneath all that, you can still glimpse the girl from Checotah, Okla. Yeah, she's a superstar, but Underwood retains a refreshing naiveté. When she accidentally bonked her own face with the microphone, you could see the flush of embarrassment from 30 rows back.

Highlights of the show included the rowdy "Last Name," "Before He Cheats" and "Cowboy Casanova" and the ballads "Jesus, Take the Wheel" (which segued nicely into a gorgeous "How Great Thou Art"), "So Small" and "Temporary Home."

Underwood sounded unfortunately nasally during the first part of the show, at times skirting dangerously close to Minnie Mouse territory. But she seemed to relax into it – or else her sinus medication kicked in – about halfway through, and the vocals soared.

She hits every note, nasally or not, and with her obvious focus on working the charisma, she's proving why she's been the most successful of the abundant American Idol crop.

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