LIVE: Carrie Underwood @ the Times Union Center, 10/27/16

Review by Greg Haymes

The last time Carrie Underwood rolled into town – back in 2012 on her Blown Away Tour – she was an absolute knock-out. The American Idol winner was utterly charming and engaging, her voice soaring and her performance spectacular.

As I wrote back then: “It was, however, the final encore of ‘Blown Away’ that really knocked the socks off the crowd, with a stunning visual display from the set and projection designers, as a faux tornado blew away the faux interior of the Midwestern farm house before our eyes. The visuals were nearly as powerful as Underwood’s vocals, and she (and her crack tech team) made sure we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore.”

Yes, it was an unexpected rave review, and so I was looking forward to being similarly blown away by her return trip to Albany’s Times Union Center last Thursday evening (October 27) in support of her latest Storyteller album.

Alas, ’twas not to be…

The problem was not Underwood’s. She still possesses a powerhouse voice capable of tearing right into the heart of a song, from the opening arena rocker of “Renegade Runway” to the show-closing power-ballad encore of “Something in the Water.”

No, the fault lands directly on the shoulders of the tour’s Creative Director Barry Lather and Production Designer Butch Allen, who have conjured up the most elaborate, over-the-top, arena-rock extravaganza of the year, and in the process have robbed Underwood of every last molecule of her charming personality by upstaging her with their set design.

According to Underwood’s website, the sprawling center-stage set-up has “seven elevator lifts and spans over 150 feet across the arena floor, with a main center stage expanse of 48 feet in diameter that rotates 360-degrees. The center lift can raise to 18 feet high. There are four satellite stages and three concentric LED rings that hover in the air and move throughout the show for visual moments and effects, plus four larger oval screens that provide video for fans on all sides of the arena.

“A very unique spotlight technology, the Black Track system, follows Carrie where ever she travels across the massive stage with aide by special beacons that have been built into her wardrobe.”

And the state-of-the-art technology – as well as the non-stop choreography required for Underwood and her eight, black-clad band members to get to the right stage at the right time during throughout the show – left little time for Underwood to actually interact with the crowd, and she rarely had the opportunity to chat with her fans, a mighty strange conundrum considering that the name of the tour is the Storyteller…

Support acts for the show included openers the Swon Brothers – led by “The Voice” competitors Zach & Colton Swon who quickly churned through a five-song opening set – and Easton Corbin and his seven-piece band, who whipped up eight songs during their 35-minute set of utterly forgettable tight-jeans-clad, bro-country songs.

Renegade Runaway
Last Name > Somethin’ Bad
Undo It
Good Girl
Church Bells
Cowboy Cassanova
Jesus, Take the Wheel
Blown Away
Two Black Cadillacs
Dirty Laundry
Choctaw County Affair
I Will Always Love You (Dolly Parton)
What I Never Knew I Always Wanted
Mountain Music (Alabama)
Clock Don’t Stop
All-American Girl
Little Toy Guns
Before He Cheats
Smoke Breaks
Something in the Water

Excerpts from Kirsten Ferguson’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Amidst the bombastic blur of flashy effects and calculated arena-rock that propelled songs like ‘Blown Away,’ ‘Dirty Laundry’ and ‘Choctaw County Affair,’ we barely got to see Underwood’s more human side. It finally came when she spoke to the crowd to introduce a slow-burning cover of her idol Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You,’ and when she talked about the challenges of motherhood before ‘What I Never Knew I Always Wanted.’ Both were highlights of the night, which finished with an encore of ‘Something in the Water.’ But before that, Underwood covered Alabama’s ‘Mountain Music’ with the help of her openers Easton Corbin and the Swon Brothers — two acts who put on unfortunately forgettable sets. Corbin’s was bland, pretty-boy country and the Swon Brothers offered generic, emo-ish pop.”

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