Carrie Underwood is both queen of country and rock star at Allstate

Carrie Underwood was a little country and a little rock ‘n’ roll on Saturday in a packed Allstate Arena. In fact, despite the wealth of Southern-style clothing and accents on display, the singer leaned more towards the rock spectrum during a rousing concert in which the 39-year-old remarked that she can probably pull it off. whatever she wants – and make it look effortless.

Whether it’s singing barefoot while riding an orb-shaped contraption that carries her above the crowd, holding notes for long periods of time without deviating from the key, delivering witty narratives in sipping red wine or brandishing microphone stands as potential weapons, Underwood displayed incredible versatility and oozing charisma. . She also knew how to have fun. From the moment the streamers rained down from the rafters in the middle of the opening song “Good Girl” to the moment the pyrotechnic blasts acted like sharp daggers on the fence “Before He Cheats”, the superstar was is arrested only to change her costume.

Underwood’s breathless energy shouldn’t be news to anyone watching her. The Oklahoma native has maintained a blistering pace since winning ‘American Idol’ in 2005. Unlike the show that many viewers once thought of as date TV, the singer has remained a constant presence . Over the past five years she has released four albums, including a gospel collection, a Christmas LP and the recent “Denim & Rhinestones”. She’s also written a best-selling lifestyle and fitness book (“Find Your Way”), launched an exercise app and completed the second part of a residency in Las Vegas last spring.

These accomplishments add to a resume that includes eight Grammy Awards, 16 ACM Awards, 23 CMT Music Awards and 17 American Music Awards. Underwood reigns as the most-followed female country artist on multiple social media platforms and continued her decade-long involvement with the opening of “Sunday Night Football” on NBC last month. She’s also continuing another longstanding practice, philanthropy, by donating money from every ticket sold on her current “Denim & Rhinestones” tour to the nonprofit Tunnel to Towers foundation.

Yet for all the lore that still informs Underwood’s career, nothing feels more impactful in the present day than having Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose perform two songs with her at the Stagecoach Festival in April. last – and call it “the greatest night of my life.” Rose and her band returned the favor in July at two gigs in London. On Saturday, Underwood seemingly projected those experiences onto a larger canvas.

Performing with cheerful swagger and unwavering confidence, Underwood remained in rock star mode throughout the 115-minute set. She and her eight-piece band hinted at the vibe even before the curtain fell by blasting Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” over the PA system as an introduction to their show. If that message wasn’t clear or loud enough, the Grand Ole Opry member then took a surprise turn behind the drums and, hair and arms waving, hammered out a solo that would have made Dave Grohl smile.

Indeed, Underwood could have easily described herself when she sang, “Because when she walks in / Poor everybody.” She owned the main stage – as well as a small area at the opposite end of the room and the air separating the two spaces. A combination of three hydraulic lifts, two aerial devices, and a pair of ramps completed a multi-tiered platform that stretched to the middle of the arena. Three video screens gave everyone a close-up view of Underwood’s glamorous outfits. His singing did not need such technological assistance.

Filled with stamina, control, purity and depth, Underwood sang with hurricane force and avoided the hype that plagues many pop divas. Although many glittering visuals and brilliant arrangements suggested softness, its authoritative tones indicated otherwise. Undo Underwood’s songs frequently featured female protagonists taking charge of their lives (“Undo It”), claiming their identity (“Ghost Story”) and/or coming out of toxic situations (“Church Bells”). His voice – assertive, dramatic, determined, a balance of fierce intensity and graceful power – gave them tenacity, pride and courage.

Singing in an understated manner that conveyed more relief than anger, she put a clever spin on the conventional country trope of cheating on “She Don’t Know.” Electric guitar in hand, the singer tackled the same theme with a dark secret and a gritty menace on “Two Black Cadillacs.”

Not everything in the Underwood universe involved casualties or broken hearts. Anchored by a keytar and synth-pop melody, summer “Denim & Rhinestones” found her dancing and dueting with opener Jimmie Allen. On several faith-themed excursions, Underwood sang with unblemished sincerity. Going from “Jesus, take the wheel” to a brief take on the spiritual “How great you are,” she channeled her church roots and reached evangelical heights.

His reach and magnetism extended to his movements. With her group following her every step, Underwood strutted, dragged, kicked, stomped and sashayed. At times, she headbanged. The singer’s left arm often spoke a language of her own, and when needed she crouched into a compact position to allow herself greater lung capacity to project herself over the din of violins, banjos, slide guitars. , keyboards and percussion. Underwood’s only glaring misstep? Piper in a pre-recorded video by Jason Aldean for a duet of “If I Didn’t Love You”. It smelled of artifice.

In contrast, Underwood’s hard rock embrace sounded utterly compelling. Coming full circle, she emerged towards the end of the gig in a black Guns N’ Roses jacket and sang a searing rendition of the band’s “Welcome to the Jungle” with a hip and leg swing that mimicked Rose’s moves. . signature slip. Although Underwood’s sass on many tracks involved sentiment, here she openly stated it: She must not be crossed. And how.

Memo to Underwood: Go all the way and step into a studio to make a full rock album, whether it’s covers or originals. If you save it, they will come.

Setlist at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont on October 22:

  • 1. “Good Girl”
  • 2. “Church Bells”
  • 3. “Cancel it”
  • 4. “Hate My Heart”
  • 5. “Cowboy Casanova”
  • 6. “If I Didn’t Love You”
  • 7. “Spoiled”
  • 8. “She doesn’t know”
  • 9. “Dazzled”
  • 10. “Burn”
  • 11. “Crying Pretty”
  • 12. “Ghost Story”
  • 13. “Two black Cadillacs”
  • 14. “Garden”
  • 15. “Jesus, take the wheel”
  • 16. “How Great Thou Art” (Traditional Cover)
  • 17. “Crazy Angels”
  • 18. “Denim & Rhinestones”
  • 19. “Flat on the floor”
  • 20. “Poor Everyone”
  • 21. “Surname”
  • 22. “Something in the Water”
  • 23. “Welcome to the Jungle” (Guns N’ Roses cover)
  • 24. “Before He Cheated”

Bob Gendron is a freelance critic.

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