Last week my dream came true. Literally, I’ve been wanting to see Carrie Underwood in concert for years and I finally had the opportunity to do it, and I’m so glad that this was the one I chose to see. My favorite album of hers thus far and my first concert ever combine for a truly spectacular evening filled with phenomenal music and mother-son time. I’m just going to talk about my >24 hour trip to Colorado and back to see one of the greatest singers and performers of our time (or all time, but to be fair it’s only been 11 years for her).
Quick notes about the actually traveling out to Colorado though because it was a pretty new experience. Because of strict attendance policies in a couple classes, I had to miss as little class time as possible, which meant going to class and going from class immediately to the bus. From the bus, I rode it to the train station, took the train to SLC where I took a light rail to the airport. I’ve never been on the train or the light rail so I improvised and may have technically been on there without paying. I didn’t know how so I kinda just skipped it and nobody questioned it or asked for proof or anything. Strange, but I got there on time, which is what counts. The plane ride always surprises me because it’s only an hour long, so there’s about a 20 minute ascent, 10 minutes of “seat belt free” time, and then it starts descending. I got off the plane and waited for my mom to pick me up.
Once she picked me up, we drove to Denver and scouted out places to park and found the Pepsi center before going into downtown Denver for food. I’d never been to the Hard Rock, so we went there. A semi-weird thing happened. I told my mom my phone was on low battery and I wanted to take pictures of the concert, so my mom stopped the waitress and asked if there was a place I could charge my phone. I ended up giving my phone and charger to the waitress so she could charge it “in the back” while we ate our food: potato skins and splitting a burger. Some of you may be confused if you know that I don’t really like burgers unless there’s nothing else to eat, but I ate a burger. Voluntarily. Overall not that bad, but very overpriced to feed two people (45-53 with tip?). Regardless, my mom had a long conversation with the manager about how best to park for the concert and various other things about celebrities and hometowns and overpriced everything.
When we finished, we went and found our parking and walked into the Pepsi center. The doors were flooded with people and we just waded in and found our seats after circling nearly the entire arena. We waited until 7:00 when the concert started and the Swon Brothers came out as the opening act. For those who’ve never heard of them, they came in third place on The Voice, season four I think. Since then they’ve become moderately successful in country music. I was actually surprised how well they performed live. They only had like 20 minutes, but they had great voices, which always surprises me a little bit. I just automatically assume a person can’t sing live until I see them sing live. They were very talented. Then Easton Corbin came out and performed for maybe 45 minutes. A standout moment for me is when he sang “Are You With Me,” which was a military tribute. Most of the main lights turned off and everyone pulled out their phones and the entire arena filled with lights. It was really a beautiful moment that I was very blessed to have witnessed. That might’ve been one of my favorite feelings about the concert. Everyone was there for a singular purpose: to see Carrie Underwood perform. Also a quick side note: while waiting for the concert to start, the stadium was maybe half full and I thought she hadn’t sold well in Denver. By the time Easton Corbin had started singing, I looked around and the entire arena (18,000+ seats) was stuffed to capacity. I don’t know if that includes the open seating next to the stage or not, but either way this concert had to have been completely sold out. Even more surprising to me was the diversity in the audience. I saw families with small children, old couples, young couples, teenagers, men and women… to me it just showed how her music spans generations and genders. SHe doesn’t sing for any one particular crowd like so many other singers do. Anyway, here’s a picture of the light stuff:
Now when Easton Corbin stopped singing, it was about 8:30. I had a paper that needed to be turned in by midnight and Carrie hadn’t even sung yet, plus we were an hour away from home. I was feeling rushed to get through the opening acts, but they were still very good. I ended up finishing the paper (which I started on the plane) while driving home. So my mom stopped at a Denny’s so I could submit my paper and she could pee. And that’s the end of that story. 11:30 p.m. in a Denny’s parking lot, I submitted my paper. I’m a good student apparently.
Anyway, so it’s 8:30 and Easton finally leaves the stage, but they have to prepare for Carrie’s arrival so it’s not until like 8:40 that she finally takes the stage, and man did she do it in style. There are three rings above the stage that can move up and down and gyrate, so the entire arena goes dark except for the descending rings. People are cheering and screaming while the intro music is on full blast. Once the rings get to the bottom, they begin to stack and then the lights turn on and who should be standing on top of the stacked rings but Carrie Underwood belting out “Renegade Runaway.” It looked like a wedding cake. It was ethereal. I of course know that famous people are real and exist, but in my mind I could never really put it together that these musicians were real. They always seemed like fantasies or higher beings to me, which is of course ridiculous, but the mere concept of being in the same place at the same time as Carrie Underwood was something I couldn’t comprehend until it happened. She was suddenly not just an idol, she was a tangible and real person a hundred feet away singing to 18,000+ people. And man, what an experience. I was elated.
I know it may sound like heresy coming from me, but I went into the concert skeptical of her. I know she’s got a fantastic voice, but I’ve also seen her off her game a little. Even off-her-game-Carrie-Underwood is great, but I was hoping for the absolute best. I tried to listen for mistakes in any of her songs, and for the love of me I couldn’t. Her vocal performance was at all times flawless. I was in permanent awe and serenity. Seriously, listening to her voice live is a gift. I may sing her praises all the time, but holy cow can this woman sing. Impeccable performance.
But now lets talk about the lineup! The concert was separated into four acts and an encore and each one had a different feel. The first act was very much the “Headbanging Party Rocking Act” to get everyone pumped for the concert: “Renegade Runaway” from Storyteller, “Last Name” combined with “Something Bad” from Carnival Ride and Miranda Lambert’s Platinum, “Good Girl” from Blown Away, and her newest single from Storyteller, “Church Bells.” Every time she sang, I was convinced it was going to be my favorite performance, but she always outdid herself with the next song. As a theater technician, I was extremely aware and impressed with the technical aspects of the show to. She had a rotating stage with multiple rising and sinking platforms, the gyro-rings, a disco ball, pyrotechnics, smoke, lasers, various colored lights with different shapes, and even white sheets to simulate wind. It was as much a visual performance as it was an auditory one.
Anyway, her first act was really incredible and I loved finally being able to hear “Church Bells” live. But it was only a sampler of what was to come. Carrie is remarkably talented in what she can convey with her voice. The first act was very edgy and rocking and high energy, but the second act was a little more calm. I’ll call the second act the “Inspiration Act.” Starting off with “Cowboy Casanova,” Carrie warned us all about falling for dangerous men who tell us what we want to hear, while offering a transition to the much more intimate “Heartbeat.” This song was a standout for me because it has a lot of opportunity to mess up because it has intimate parts and powerful parts, but Carrie sailed through it like it was nothing. This is when the disco ball dropped and little red dots (or maybe hearts) flew around the room. Next was one of her most iconic songs and the tone shifted dramatically. “Jesus Take the Wheel” anyone? She talked briefly about it being one of her favorite songs and the entire audience seemed to simmer down and listen. Carrie commanded the stage. There were no special effects or strobe lights, just Carrie and spotlights. Carrie appeals to a wide range of audiences, some Christian and some not. But Carrie was near angelic during this song. I felt as though God was in that room lifting Carrie up and just absorbing all the praise coming from her as well as the completely enamored audience. It was remarkable. From there she moved into “Wasted,” which isn’t normally my favorite song, but as a follow up to “Jesus Take the Wheel,” it just felt more powerful. A song about not wanting to spend life wasted (which has multiple applicable meanings) following a song about turning back to God combined with Carrie’s charisma and heavenly voice was just moving. Plain and simple.
The third act was the “Revenge/Warning Act.” Starting out with “Blown Away,” the white streamers came out and created the effect of being blown away. I’ve always loved this song, but she game another commanding performance. The bass drum was my favorite part and really synced with Carrie’s singing. They matched emphasis and the effect was beautifully dark and hypnotic, only to have it shattered by the chorus and soaring high notes that Carrie plucked with ease. Then it settled into “Two Black Cadillacs,” which was another great performance, but not quite noteworthy amidst every other show-stopping number. At this point, Carrie talked about the direction her new album took. She praised Blown Away for pushing her in a darker direction that told great stories, but for the new one she wanted to tell something different. She put a little more twang into it, which lead right into “Dirty Laundry.” It was an epic performance, but it was completely overshadowed by the next song: “Choctaw County Affair.” I find the song incredibly twangy and catchy; it’s a complete break from what Carrie is known for. The song doesn’t have soaring high notes, just a whole lot of rhythm and style. But nevertheless, Carrie slayed it. What made the song remarkable though was Carrie’s vicious harmonica blowing. Out of nowhere, Carrie just pulls out a harmonica and wails into it whenever a harmonica line comes up while she’s not singing. There was such ferocity that everyone was stunned, but immediately began cheering. She’s multi-talented. It was just incredible seeing her get an opportunity to let loose on the harmonica.
The fourth act was the “I WILL MAKE YOU CRY EVEN IF YOU DON’T WANT TO ACT.” Carrie emerged on the stage for the fourth time on nothing but a chair and started talking about women in country music and the driving purpose behind country music. Country music is about telling a story, whether it’s about love or revenge or getting drunk, country music tells a story. She thought of all the people that inspired her, and more than any other, one name came up: Dolly Parton. To pay tribute to Dolly, Carrie performed “I Will Always Love You.” This song is SO famous because Whitney Houston sang it for The Bodyguard and blew everyone away. It was an incredible performance, but it’s not the original. Dolly wrote and performed it much more sentimentally and intimately. Carrie could easily sing the Whitney version, but she’s time and again stuck with the Dolly version, the more beautiful one if you ask me. My mom, and countless others, tried to compare her to Whitney which just wasn’t realistic since she sang a different version. Either way, when she started singing, she practically silenced the room with the song. The Dolly version is so tender and Carrie has a powerful voice, but Carrie can do soft too. I was in awe. I might be biased because I’m so in love with Carrie, but she just destroyed the song. She was phenomenal. She hit every high note perfectly and sweetly and put such longing into the words. Possibly my favorite performance of the night. I heard a man shouting nearby me something like, “Well that’s it. It’s over.” I don’t have all the context, but from how it sounded to me, he seemed to be saying, “There is NOTHING this woman cannot sing. I don’t need to hear anymore. She’s officially the best.” Or maybe I just heard what I wanted to hear.
Anyway, the next song she sang very nearly brought me to tears and is the song I was most excited to hear her perform live just because of how personal it is to her. “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted,” is about her husband and her baby. For the song, she sat on a piano and had a slideshow of pictures playing on the overhead screen. Pictures nobody had seen before showed up. Her wedding photos, the pictures of her son with her, with her husband, and with them both. It was the most touching thing I’d seen in a very long time and the song was sung with such love and devotion that I was almost reduced to tears. Maybe if my mom wasn’t standing right next to me… Either way, another standout song. Then in a surprise twist, Easton Corbin and the Swon Brothers joined Carrie on stage again for “Fishin’ in the Dark,” which was pretty cool. Made me wonder how those men felt singing on the same stage as the queen of country music. Then Carrie performed some heartfelt “Clock Don’t Stop,” “All-American Girl,” and “Little Toy Guns.” All of them were of course spectacular, but I won’t highlight them over the others. Although, during “Little Toy Guns,” fire erupted out of the stage the first time she sang the words, “Bang bang,” To round out the act, Carrie whipped out her arguably biggest hit: “Before He Cheats.” The crows erupted into pandemonium and everyone sang along. She even stopped singing to let the crowd sing for her, as many artists often do. 18,000 voices all singing the same song and it was almost as loud as Carrie. Pretty cool, actually. Then she left. I thought for good, but she came out for an encore!
The encore was the “You Thought I Forgot About These Songs Act.” Her first single from Storyteller, “Smoke Break,” was first up and I loved it. What can I say that I haven’t already said? It was great. And finally, one of my all time favorite songs, “Something in the Water.” The effects for this song were actually pretty cool. Blue lasers above her formed a kind of cone around Carrie and other lighting effects and smoke created a riveting display. She said goodnight, and that was the end of it. The perfect concert. My mom, who like Carrie Underwood but doesn’t really follow music artists anymore, commented that it was a fantastic show all around. The singing, the lights, the effects, it was just masterful on all sides. I couldn’t agree more. It was one of the best nights of my life.
We drove home and I slept for a few hours before getting up to have breakfast with a friend and then I had to leave for the airport. I spent less than 24 hours in Colorado and that was bizarre. I was still buzzing from the night before. I made it back to my dorm safe and sound and that was that. Here are the pictures I took. I video taped as much as I could before my camera died, so that’s why there’s only one of Carrie. Lots of video of Carrie though. I can’t give enough thumbs up. 10/10. Anyway, thanks for reading, and if you can, consider going to one of her concerts! You won’t regret it