FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Carrie Underwood may be a household name, but she told the eager crowd at the Crown Coliseum on Friday night (April 30) that they could just call her Miss Fumble Fingers.
Right after her opening number, "Cowboy Casanova," the singer's mic slipped through her fingers on her way to greet the audience at stage left, dropping to the floor with a loud thud. But rather than lose her composure or pretend like nothing happened, she just picked it up, giggled with a cute "oops!" and went on with the song. Afterwards, she told the amused audience that she had already dropped (and broken) a cup of coffee before the show -- good thing she was wearing a black tuxedo -- and that if she fell off the stage during this Play On tour stop, they'd just have to catch her.
Nobody would have minded. After all, Underwood is the reigning entertainer of the year from the Academy of Country Music (ACM) -- a fan-voted distinction -- and she's the only woman in history to win it twice. Looking around the crowd, she's also a role model for lots of young women singing along to "Before He Cheats" and "Temporary Home."
Taking a cue from one of her heroes, fellow Oklahoman Reba McEntire, Underwood must have changed costumes about a dozen times throughout her long set, at one point in denim-and-leather casual wear, another in a digital evening gown. All of this -- and much more -- would be way too much spectacle if Underwood couldn't actually sing so well. Fortunately, she really can. On songs like "Just a Dream" and "So Small," she doesn't even flinch or make crazy faces when the big notes arrive. She's blessed with a strong soprano that makes even the hardest songs to sing live appear like it's no big deal.
Despite all her success in music and fashion, Underwood still comes across as an easygoing girl next door. In other words, she truly seems to be the "All-American Girl" from her hit song. The young girls in my corner of the arena waved frantically any time she'd look our way. Nearly every time, she'd smile and wave back -- never missing a note. When she finally trucked over to our section, nearly everyone stood and waved up at her like she was Glinda the Good Witch and we were all Munchkins.
Underwood also implored the crowd to "open your minds and open your hearts" to all the kinds of music that she was about to play, which translates to, "I'm going to rock your face off later." (She did, on "Undo It.") Before she sang "Jesus, Take the Wheel," she admitted that even if she'd never made it to the American Idol stage, she'd be happy working as a journalist. "It's funny, because I run from those people now," she wryly noted. After the last verse of that first hit, which she said set the course of her whole career, she belted out a sterling rendition of "How Great Thou Art."
There were many more theatrics and costume changes, plus digital guest star Randy Travis. (The real-life version was born about a hundred miles west, in Marshville, N.C.) She also took the time to praise her sizable band and crew for their efforts on the high-tech tour, calling them "a giant family that travels around in rolling apartments together."
For this Play On tour package, the entourage also includes Craig Morgan, who offered several crowd-pleasing songs along with ongoing shout-outs to the nearby Fort Bragg Army post. Sons of Sylvia (from Next Great American Band) opened the show with a brief pop set and later joined Underwood during her set on "What Can I Say."
And what can I say? The primary reason to catch this tour is because Underwood is one of the most potent vocalists in country music. Popular songs like "Wasted" and "Some Hearts" are easy to like -- and so is she. Even though Underwood came into country music through American Idol nearly five years ago, it's easy to understand why the fans are still voting for her.