By Brian Ives
Has anyone from the NFL attended any of Carrie Underwood’s concerts on her current “Storyteller” tour? You would think so; she’s sung theme songs for them over the years, and surely the Venn diagram of Underwood’s fans and football fans has a big overlap. So, why hasn’t she been invited to play the Super Bowl Halftime show yet?
That’s what went through my mind as I attended my first Underwood concert, last night (October 26) at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
The stage itself seems built for Halftime. Instead of the conventional stage on one side of the floor, Underwood’s stage, much like the stage on U2’s Innocence + Experience tour, splits the arena and allows her to sing from both ends of the floor. No matter where you’re sitting, you’re close to her at some points of the show.
And also like U2, every song seems to have its own design. A huge lighting structure would descend onto the middle of the stage and become a platform for Underwood. There were other hydraulic platforms on the stage, lasers, monitor screens and more.
Underwood’s band was tight, and while they all seem to have a background in country, they’re more than adept at arena rock.
But nothing — not the production, not the band — outshone Underwood’s insanely powerful voice. Which shouldn’t be a surprise; after all, she came to us via American Idol, which she won way back in 2005. But where so many singers from that show have chops but end up fading out of the public consciousness months after their season ends, Underwood has become one of the biggest stars in any music genre over the last decade.
Last night, I saw why. Here were my six favorite moments, all of which I think could work for Halftime.
“Renegade Runaway”: The opening track from her Storyteller album is full on arena rock; there’s tinges of country in the music and R&B in the vocals. It was a perfect opener. She also had her mic attached to a half-mic stand, a la Queen’s Freddie Mercury (and later, Axl Rose), in a nod to other singers who knew how to rock humongous crowds. It would be a great opener for Halftime as well.
“Church Bells”: Also from Storyteller, this song about women done wrong was chill inducing, particularly when so much of the audience sang along with the lines, “Jenny slipped something in his Tennessee whiskey/No law man was ever gonna find/And how he died is still a mystery/But he hit a woman for the very last time.”
“Last Name”/”Somethin’ Bad”: “Last Night” is an anthem of bad decision making (and who can’t relate to that?) from her second album, 2007’s Carnival Ride. “Somethin’ Bad” is a 2014 duet by Underwood and Miranda Lambert (and hey, this medley would be a great Halftime moment, especially if Lambert joined her). And of course, one of Underwood’s NFL themes is to the tune of “Somethin’ Bad.”
“Mountain Music”: The “country” in “country music” can sometimes get lost during an arena rock spectacle. So, “Mountain Music” was a perfect reminder of where Underwood’s roots are. As a bonus, she was joined by opening acts Easton Corbin and the Swon Brothers for the song. She could have any big country stars guest with her on this song if she was performing during the Big Game.
“Choctaw Country Affair”: Despite it being called “The Storyteller Tour,” Underwood didn’t speak much from the stage (all of the songs told their own stories, anyway). But she did take a moment to praise Dolly Parton, and the influence is visually obvious: they both love sparkles on everything. And like Parton, Underwood was able to dazzle the audience with her prowess on a musical instrument: this song saw Underwood playing some nasty harmonica.
“I Will Always Love You”: Speaking of Dolly, Underwood did a stripped down version of her biggest song. Instead of doing the Whitney Houston arrangement, she was accompanied just by an acoustic guitar. It’s a daunting song for any singer, and Underwood was more than up to the task.
To the NFL: what have you been waiting for? Of course, we’re all looking forward to seeing Lady Gaga this year. But here’s hoping Carrie Underwood’s schedule is clear on February 4, 2018. We hear Minnesota is nice that time of year.