Carrie Underwood is clearly getting used to living in Nashville. Although she presented a multi-media extravaganza at the Bridgestone Arena on Sunday night (Sept. 23), her laid-back personality and sense of humor made it feel like she was just hanging out with her friends.
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"You have no idea how much time I spend in Bridgestone Arena," Underwood casually remarked a few songs into her set. After all, her husband Mike Fisher is a star in his own right with the Nashville Predators, the hockey team that plays in that same venue.
Fisher had told her earlier in the day that she was on his turf now, but she replied, "Nuh-uh, I was here first."
And that's true. Underwood has been on Nashville's radar since 2005 after winning American Idol. A few months later, she impressed viewers of the CMT special 100 Greatest Duets in this very same arena. Along with past headlining performances there, it's also where she co-hosts the CMA Awards with Brad Paisley.
Speaking of Paisley, he somehow pulled off a neat hat trick -- flying back from a Las Vegas show just in time to surprise Underwood on "Remind Me." After the show, I was told that only three people knew it was happening -- essentially, just the sound team who could get him amplified in time. Underwood obviously had no idea. Although she is always quite poised, she began weeping when she saw Paisley approaching her onstage. She even missed a few lines of the song to catch her breath. But when she did get it together, the duet elicited deafening screams from the audience.
Although Underwood happily shares the spotlight with Fisher in her personal life and Paisley in her professional life, she's undeniably a superstar in her own right. Country music has rarely heard a finer singer. Because it's so early in the tour, I'm reluctant to give too much away, but I can share that Underwood does manage to get close to the middle of the crowd, that she's not afraid to show off her shapely legs with numerous costume changes and that she's put a lot of thought into the storm imagery that ties the show together. She also does a terrific job of spiking album cuts from her Blown Away album into the show without dragging it down.
Start to finish, it will be tough for any country artist to top what Underwood is delivering on this tour.
New artist Hunter Hayes proved a worthy opener, presumably drawing inspiration from Rascal Flatts' music and Keith Urban's showmanship. He closed his set with "Storm Warning," which worked well as a transition into Underwood's tornado-themed tour. However his biggest hit is "Wanted," a No. 1 hit at radio, and he accepted a platinum plaque from his record label in the middle of his energetic set. You can imagine his life is a whirlwind right now, and for that reason, being on this tour is probably the perfect place for him.