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Carrie Underwood's big show, mammoth voice fills MTS Centre

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Carrie Underwood performs onstage at MTS Centre Saturday night.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Carrie Underwood performs onstage at MTS Centre Saturday night.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/10/2016 (762 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s tough to imagine Carrie Underwood was ever a hopeful, fresh-faced American Idol contestant.

It was particularly tough to imagine it Saturday night, when her larger-than-life Storyteller Tour: Stories In the Round rolled into the MTS Centre.

“Stories in the round” conjures images of an acoustic-based, sweet girl-next-door country set with a focus on intimacy. But Underwood is no sweet girl next door — she may have a country soul, but she’s got a rock ’n’ roll heart. This was a bombastic spectacle that made the arena feel small.

As soon as the room went black, the opening lick from AC/DC’s Back in Black introduced the lady of the hour, who emerged from the centre of her massive, arena-spanning stage, dressed in a glittering all-black outfit, complete with leather gloves. Opening with Renegade Runaway, she worked every inch of her 360 stage. Composed of three circles connected by catwalks, it gave practically everyone on the floor a front-row spot.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/10/2016 (762 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s tough to imagine Carrie Underwood was ever a hopeful, fresh-faced American Idol contestant.

It was particularly tough to imagine it Saturday night, when her larger-than-life Storyteller Tour: Stories In the Round rolled into the MTS Centre.

"Stories in the round" conjures images of an acoustic-based, sweet girl-next-door country set with a focus on intimacy. But Underwood is no sweet girl next door — she may have a country soul, but she’s got a rock ’n’ roll heart. This was a bombastic spectacle that made the arena feel small.

As soon as the room went black, the opening lick from AC/DC’s Back in Black introduced the lady of the hour, who emerged from the centre of her massive, arena-spanning stage, dressed in a glittering all-black outfit, complete with leather gloves. Opening with Renegade Runaway, she worked every inch of her 360 stage. Composed of three circles connected by catwalks, it gave practically everyone on the floor a front-row spot.

Her stage was overstimulating. It lit up, rotated and shot fire. It featured multi-level platforms and video screens, as well as her eight-person band. The night belonged to Underwood’s mammoth voice, which she unleashed on stomping, rock renditions of Good Girl and Church Bells.

Underwood then re-emerged in a white, fringed mini-dress and sparkly ankle booties standing atop an oversized jukebox that literally shot sparks for Cowboy Casanova. Indeed, she kicked it country in the second act, performing Heartbeat — the second single from her latest, 2015’s Storyteller — and a pair of tracks from her very first album, 2005’s Some Hearts: Jesus Take the Wheel and Wasted.

The pace of the show was rigorous. It wasn’t a "storyteller" show in the way that, say, Dolly Parton’s September concert was; in fact, Underwood only acknowledged the crowd once in the first hour of the show. That’s OK, though; she let her songs tell the stories — particularly in the dark, broody act three, which included Blown Away and Black Cadillacs. (And the third of several outfit changes of the night.)

Underwood is often criticized for over-singing; other famous so-called over-singers include Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey, who can hit notes only dogs can hear. But while she certainly engaged in some vocal gymnastics — as on a showstopping cover of Parton’s I Will Always Love You — she knew when to let it soar, too. The tender What I Never Knew I Always Wanted, which she dedicated to her toddler son, was one such unencumbered performance.

Underwood’s opening acts Easton Corbin and the Swon Brothers — who both turned in solid sets earlier in the night — joined her onstage for a cover of Alabama’s Mountain Music kicking off an energetic act four that concluded at press time with a monster version of her don’t-mess-with-me hit Before He Cheats.

Everything about this show was big: the stage, the lights, the thunderous backing band, that voice. Carrie Underwood isn’t afraid to take up space.

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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