Carrie Underwood Was Flawless for a Laid-Back Houston Crowd

Carrie Underwood Was Flawless for a Laid-Back Houston Crowd
Photos by Jack Gorman

Carrie Underwood, Easton Corbin
Toyota Center
April 25, 2016

You have to give Carrie Underwood credit: Most times when artists have to reschedule shows, the new date is way out in the future. If sickness or a family emergency or a city-paralyzing flood causes a show to be called off, 19 times out of 20, it means that fans are going to be waiting weeks, if not months, for the makeup show.

Underwood's fans in Houston didn’t even have to wait a week. While there’s still plenty of moist ground and standing water around the city, downtown was dry enough for people to rock their rodeo outfits one more time this season.

While everyone dressed their part, inside Toyota Center, things were pretty subdued. The crowd would roar now and then, especially during the main-set closer “Before He Cheats," but by and large, this was the most chill crowd I’ve seen at a show for a major star.

Maybe it was just coming off of a week of crazy weather. Maybe it was just that the performance was on a Monday night. It wasn’t bad, exactly; it just made the show feel like it didn’t have momentum.

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Which is a shame. because Carrie Underwood puts on one hell of a show. In the realm of stagecraft and the ability to create memorable images and moments onstage, I would be hard-pressed to think of someone doing it better right now. The lighting, costumes and staging all come together with some well-written songs to create performances that are stunning.

With the crowd energy being what it was, it almost felt like too much of a good thing. None of the songs were bad and none of them dragged, but taken together, the show felt epic length, and not necessarily in a good away. Trimmed down three or four songs, the show might have worked just a touch better.

But it was still, all told, a pretty great performance. Whether she was showing her vocal chops by belting out the Dolly classic “I Will Always Love You,” leading the crowd in a singalong to “Undo It” or kicking ass on her new single “Church Bells,” it’s easy to see why Underwood became a star in the first place; she’s just kind of great at everything she does with a mike in hand. She even plays a mean harmonica.

Here are two thoughts on Carrie Underwood after I saw her live:

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1. I would kill for Underwood to make a straight-up, power-pop/rock record. Dust some of the Southern edges off her songs, and there are some power-pop gems in her catalog. Rock could use a few more Carrie Underwoods and a few less dudes with silly hair in skinny jeans cosplaying the ’70s.

2. I hope when she hits the studio to work on her next record, they let her take things up a notch. Carving up a dude’s car is fierce, but in this new, post-Lemonade, “I’ll wear your side chick’s teeth like confetti” world, I’d be curious to see what Underwood’s woman scorned would do.

So, How Was the Opener?: Easton Corbin is perfectly acceptable country music. He is neither good nor bad. He simply is.

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Personal Bias: The only reality TV shows I watch are Dance Moms and Catfish.

The Crowd: There’s this thing that I’ve only seen at country shows: people getting audibly annoyed that others are standing up in the seated section to enjoy the show. I’m torn on this issue, because on one hand I don’t believe there’s anything intrinsically wrong with standing; on the other, I really would prefer to watch shows sitting because I’m old and boring.

Overheard in the Crowd: “I don’t know if I’m prepared for these people on a Monday,” said my +1 on the subject of people a couple of beers deep who were letting out their best bad dance moves. She later swore to God that she would never end up like that.

Random Notebook Dump: If you look her up on Spotify, Carrie Underwood has a workout songs playlist. In the middle of that list is Mudvayne’s “Dig." Not only am I slightly surprised she knows who Mudvayne is, but I’m surprised she goes so hard when she works out; I get working out to “Happy?” or something like “The Patient Mental,” but “Dig”? That’s hardcore.  

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