From Sign on San Diego...
There’s a good reason Carrie Underwood has achieved more commercial success than any other “American Idol” winner.
Rather than fiddle with a winning formula, she sounds like she’s still striving to win over the public and a panel of judges, belting out notes with well-honed accuracy while never straying from the middle of the road. Like her friend Taylor Swift , she doesn’t rock the boat so much as ensure smooth sailing for her listeners, with a proven formula that is equal parts Nashville and Los Angeles, down-home gal and uptown girl.
The recently married Underwood, who performs here Friday at the San Diego Sports Arena, specializes in power ballads and sassy, Shania Twain-styled romp-and-roll struts that suit her big voice well. Like Swift, she adds just the right amount of country flavoring to ensure maximum crossover appeal. On each of her three albums to date, Underwood’s singing is earnest and polished to a fine sheen, while lacking in spontaneity and daring. Ditto at her crowd-pleasing concerts.
Speaking of fine sheens, Rascal Flatts has the art of sounding sleek down to a science. The country-pop trio, which performs here Saturday at Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre with Chris Young and “American Idol” alum Kellie Pickler, also specializes in power ballads with amped-up vocal pyrotechnics but little subtlety or dynamic tension.
At its best, as on its 2006 cover version of “What Hurts the Most,” the 10-year-old Rascal Flatts seeks to heal a broken heart with arm-waving verses and soaring choruses.
At its worst, as on its overblown 2009 album, “Unstoppable,” the group sounds both bloated and cautious, substituting pomp and circumstance for emotional depth and musical dimension. With a new album, the promisingly titled “Nothing Like This,” due in November, there’s still time for Rascal Flatts to mature and start taking some real chances.
Carrie Underwood, with Sons of Sylvia and Billy Currington
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: San Diego Sports Arena, 3500 Sports Arena Blvd., Midway District
Phone: (800) 745-3000