Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Carrie Underwood, Hunter Hayes concert review: Ontario, Calif.

photo by Drew A. Kelley
A version of my review originally appeared at:

Halfway through a sold out show at Citizens Business Bank Arena, Carrie Underwood soared above the crowd to do a multi-song segment. The high flying stage served as an apt metaphor for her upward career trajectory since winning “American Idol” in 2005.

The most successful singer to emerge from that show, Underwood has won loads of music awards (last month’s Grammys added another one to the total), notched more than a dozen top 10 country singles (plus pop and adult contemporary chart crossovers), seen all four studio albums reach platinum-plus status and done some film/TV acting work.

Her ongoing tour for 2012’s “Blown Away” began last spring and was among the year’s top grossing concert treks. Beyond all that is a memorable voice that can wail with the best of ‘em. And it was in fine form on Sunday night in Ontario, where Underwood was the first CBBA music performer back in ’08.

As screens projected images of a tornado and a large windmill spun onstage, the eight-piece band provided an ominous sonic introduction. Then Underwood emerged from the doors of a “cellar” to launch the 95-minute set with energetic stomper “Good Girl.” 

The Oklahoma native (who turns 30 on March 10) looked resplendent as ever; her initial outfit included a metallic studded bracelet and lacy pumps. Basically the song running mirrored Staples Center last September, albeit with a few tweaks. A good chunk of “Blown Away” was played live, with 2007’s “Carnival Ride” comprising much of the remainder.

During a rare song introduction, Underwood briefly recalled wearing out “my sister’s cassette tape of this man’s song” as a kid before doing a subtle take on Randy Travis’ “I Told You So.” An early highlight, it was leavened by weepy pedal steel accents and subtle brushstroke drum work.

Fans cheered wildly at the opening dramatic strains of latest single “Two Black Cadillacs.” Underwood’s hair was strategically blown while she reached an impressive sustained vocal note. Soon after, she would half chuckle to herself (as if to think, “OK, here we go”) before attempting another one amid a snatch of gospel classic “How Great Thou Art,” appended to “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

Three musicians and Underwood - casually dressed in cutoff shorts, a John Fogerty concert t-shirt and fringe vest – were hoisted across the arena roof for the floating stage section of the show. Equally laid back were the song choices here, notably standouts “All American Girl” (boasting soulful vocal flourishes) and a whistling, reggaefied “One Way Ticket,” something that would fit right in at a Kenny Chesney gig (Underwood tossed out Hawaiian leis and jumbo beach balls bounced around the floor section).

Toward night’s end, the fiddle-laden “Flat on the Floor” proved a great showcase for Underwood’s sassy vocals and the frenzied “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun” was a fun country hoedown. Come encore time, the sad ballad “I Know You Won’t” found Underwood emoting while sitting on a bed. Finally, “Blow Away” was a full fledged spectacle finale complete with confetti and fans triggered their LED bracelets (a la Coldplay's tour), distributed upon entrance.
photo by Drew A. Kelley
Hunter Hayes and his four member group did a 40-minute, eight-song opening set that just seemed to be gaining steam before they had to quit.

The young country phenom is a hot property right now since “Wanted” recently topped two of Billboard’s country singles charts and his solid 2011 self-titled, major label bow has been certified gold. A little more playing time wouldn’t have hurt.

Still, Hayes was an engaging presence in Ontario who comfortably displayed his musical prowess on both electric guitar (the John Mayer-esque ending licks on “Somebody’s Heartbreak,” “More Than I Should”) and piano (crowd sing along “Wanted,” a poignant “Where We Left Off,” from the “Act of Valor” soundtrack). The lyric festooned instruments were also a cool touch. Hands down highlight was the feisty closer “Storm Warning,” where Hayes leaped around the stage.

Carrie Underwood, Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, March 3, 2013
Setlist: Good Girl/Undo It/Wasted/I Told You So/Two Black Cadillacs/Last Name/Temporary Home/Jesus Take the Wheel>How Great Thou Art/Cowboy Casanova/Get Out of This Town/Nobody Ever Told You/All American Girl/One Way Ticket/Leave Love Alone/Flat on the Floor/See You Again/Cupid’s Got a Shotgun/Before He Cheats
Encore: I Know You Won’t/Blow Away

Hunter Hayes
Setlist: Light Me Up/Love Makes Me/Somebody’s Heartbreak/Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me/Where We Left Off/Wanted/More Than I Should/Storm Warning

No comments: