NEW YORK -- Unless you've been spending your summer sequestered in a cave, beyond the reach of all media, you've got at least a passing familiarity with the particulars of Carrie Underwood's July 10 wedding to Canadian hockey star Mike Fisher, seemingly the only 2010 matrimonial story capable of rivaling Chelsea Clinton's nuptials.
So we won't bother going over it all again, but we will note that her wedding marked the first time in a good while that Underwood has taken a break from her relentless Play On tour schedule, playing her last show before the wedding on July 4 and enjoying a Tahitian honeymoon with her new hubby before getting set to return to the road with a Saturday (July 31) with a concert in Fairlea, W.Va. But before that, Underwood turned up Friday morning (July 30) on NBC's Today for her first television appearance since becoming an official hockey wife.
From all outward appearances, marriage hasn't seemed to have changed the 27-year-old Oklahoman in any significant way. On the first mercifully mild New York day following weeks of withering heat, Underwood was as stylish as ever, even exuding star-quality glamour while dressed down in a T-shirt and cutoffs for the pre-show run-through.
All the extra attention she's been getting lately certainly didn't dim the adulation and affection the packed crowd showed for her. Everywhere you looked in Rockefeller Plaza, there were homemade signs held aloft proclaiming "Chicago Loves Carrie" and "All-American Girl From Madison, Wisconsin" while a group of Underwood's fellow Okies could be heard hollering out the name of their home state with pride.
Even the news delivered by hosts Matt Lauer and Ann Curry in the 90 minutes leading up to the show's music segment seemed oddly Underwood-related, like the preparations for Clinton's wedding this weekend in Rhinebeck, N.Y., and the unexpected resignation of judge Ellen DeGeneres from American Idol, where the country queen got her start. And Lauer did indeed declare his intention to get Underwood's "take on the whole shakeup" at American Idol while marveling over the "sea of country music fans" who had assembled to glimpse their newly-wedded heroine. As Underwood's segment approached, workers for Today started making their way through the crowd, passing out free cowboy hats -- pink, blue, red, and violet for the ladies and a more traditional look for the guys.
Emerging onto the stage at last, Underwood sported no chapeau herself, opting instead for a starkly striking outfit of black shorts, jacket, loose-slung tie and thigh-high stockings with a white shirt. After signing some autographs for what Curry called "one of the larger crowds of the year," Underwood busted out with the driving, rough-edged "Cowboy Casanova," strutting confidently across the stage with a rock-star presence while the band laid down a guitar-crunching groove to match.
During the commercial break, a stylist hurried onstage and artfully mussed the star's hair before Lauer began a brief interview by asking the question foremost in nearly every Underwood fan's mind: "How's married life?"
With characteristic unpretentiousness, the new bride replied, "It's a lot like dating life," going on to explain that she and Fisher can't be together as much as they would like, adding, "We're both very busy people and understand each other's lives."
When Lauer lightly pumped her for inside info on a possible replacement at American Idol for the newly-departed DeGeneres, she good-naturedly confessed she didn't know any more than he did, while mentioning that Idol judge Kara DioGuardi did write some songs (including "Cowboy Casanova") for her latest album.
Leaping into yet another No. 1 single from that album, "Undo It," Underwood started swaying sensuously to the song's sinuous rhythm and minor-key mood as a spiky-haired fiddler sawed away and a muscled, tattooed drummer slammed the beat down. Soon, Underwood was shouting out, "You guys better help me out here," leading the crowd in a "na na" singalong as the intensity of the tune rose to its punchy climax.
For her final performance of the morning, Underwood picked one of her signature tunes, "Before He Cheats," pouring herself into the performance and letting out some soulful moans during the middle of the song. Then, within minutes of the song's emotional ending, the road crew began dutifully breaking down the mountain of equipment assembled onstage. And Underwood returned heartily to her earlier task of greeting her fans and signing autographs, seeming for all the world as if that was a responsibility at least as important as anything she'd just done on camera.