There can’t be a better arena show on the road than the spectacle Carrie Underwood brought to Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday.
That show has to be rooted in songs that have connected well enough to draw nearly 12,000 to the arena. Then those songs have to be well performed — and there’s no better singer in any style of popular music than Underwood.
Then comes the production — innovative, effective and continually eye-catching for the entirety of the nearly two-hour show.
Rising on a platform in the middle of one of the two lighted, curved runways that combined to circle the arena floor, Underwood was surrounded by lasers and sparks as she sang her new single “Southbound.”
Above her, scrims hung atop the oval stage, projecting her at times, and at others, for example, candles to heighten the emotion of “The Bullet.” The use of scrims rivaled that of U2's last tour, another production marvel. The platforms' continual use throughout the show was dramatically effective.
Cycling through her career, Underwood and her excellent eight-person band did a medley of her earliest hits and played plenty of “Cry Pretty,” her latest album — including the back-to-back pairing of the loungey “Drinking Alone,” complete with smoky saxophone, and “End Up With You,” with Underwood impressing on hand drums.
As the four-song opening blast highlighted by a snarling “Country Casanova” and her brief snippet of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” demonstrated, 40 years ago, Underwood would have been a powerhouse rock vocalist a la Pat Benatar and Heart’s Ann Wilson.
Today, the “American Idol” winner is the reigning queen of country, belting out ballads like “Jesus, Take The Wheel," bashing on a Stratocaster on “Church Bells” and visiting the old country trope on the set-closing "Before He Cheats.”
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Late in the show, she acknowledged her country roots, bringing openers Runaway June and Maddie & Tae for a medley of songs by female country stars.
Those songs were from Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, The Judds, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire and Shania Twain.
While showing she could be one of the great traditional country singers, Underwood, without saying a word, delivered a pointed critique of today’s male-saturated country radio.
“Southbound” and Runaway June’s “Buy My Own Drinks” make up a third of the songs by female artists in this week’s Billboard’s Top 50 country songs. That’s ridiculous.
Underwood, who did a Cher-level half-dozen costume changes — she likes sparkly sequined numbers — didn’t say a lot during the show.
She didn’t have to to keep the audience locked in to one of the best shows I’ve seen at PBA or any other arena.