It has been 14 years since Checotah, Oklahoma, native Carrie Marie Underwood defeated Bo Bice in Season 4 of Fox’s “American Idol” to kick start a career that would see her reign atop the country and pop music charts.
In a 360 of her career as one of the most successful “Idol” champions, Underwood brought her “Cry Pretty Tour 360” to Spokane Arena on Wednesday night, and the overall theme of the evening was a celebration of women, including the headliner herself who has become a role model and idol since her victory in 2005.
Opening acts Runaway June and Maddie & Tae kicked off the evening at 7, and Underwood took the stage 90 minutes later for a nearly two-hour set that features pretty much all of her hits and then some, that some including classics of the women of country who ruled before her.
In one of the evening’s highlights, Underwood was joined onstage by her openers for a fun and sassy tribute medley. She said, “We grew up listening to the best of the best of music by women,” then they performed “Stand By Your Man” (Tammy Wynette), “Walking After Midnight” (Patsy Cline), “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (Loretta Lynn), “9 to 5” (Dolly Parton), “Rockin’ to the Rhythm of the Rain” (The Judds), “She’s in Love With the Boy” (Trisha Yearwood), “Independence Day” (Martina McBride), “Wild One” (Faith Hill), “Why Haven’t I Heard From You” (Reba McEntire) and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” (Shania Twain).
Soon after, Brooke of Spokane was brought onstage to perform Ludacris’ rap segment in “The Champion,” a duet with Underwood. Brooke was chosen by the tour as a “local champion” because she wanted to honor her sister, a mom who does everything. Underwood made it a tribute to moms everywhere, and a quick Google search of Brooke, who Underwood said “nailed it” (she did), found that she is a junior at Eastern Washington University.
Also Wednesday evening at Spokane Arena:
A 360-degree scrim that doubled as a screen served the production well, showcasing a striking tornado sequence during “Blown Away,” a smoky speakeasy for “Drinking Alone,” family photos with her husband, former NHL player Mike Fisher, and their children and more.
Underwood’s first words to the audience were “Spokane, how you doin’ tonight?” A little later, it was, “Well, hello, Spokane!” She worked the 360-degree stage to make all of her fans happy.
Underwood and her very talented musicians also made constant use of the raised stages, and she showcased her skills on guitar, piano and drums along with her big and still-strong voice.
Another music highlight of the evening was her walk down memory lane – “these songs are special to us” – with “Temporary Home,” “See You Again,” “I Know You Won’t” and an incredible mashup of “Just a Dream” and “Dream On” by Aerosmith.
Of “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” her first breakout hit post-“Idol” (not including her coronation song, “Inside Your Heaven”), she said, “If I could only sing one song, I would be happy singing this song for the rest of my life.” Of the next number, “The Bullet,” she said, “This song means a lot to me, too.”
Underwood noted that she is a first-time co-producer on her latest album, “Cry Pretty,” and it shows in her sexy and smoky side for “Drinking Alone” and adventurous Caribbean trip for “End Up With You.”
Underwood, a fashion icon in the country world, emerged from below the stage in a shiny black gown. Shiny was the theme of Underwood’s evening, as her other wardrobe changes were a gold jacket paired with black slacks; a sleeveless champagne-colored gown; and a super-shiny silver mini-dress.
The Cry Pretty Tour 360’s next stop is the Tacoma Dome on Friday and Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday.
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