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With vocals, showmanship, Underwood cheats no one Arena, Los Angeles, March 13, 2023

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Carrie Underwood may not fit any traditionalist's definition of a country singer, but there's no denying her vocal abilities and shear showmanship. These talents were on full display during her thoroughly entertaining concert.

Underwood's 20-plus song set presented a healthy overview of the country star's career. It did seem a little odd to witness a country singer change outfits so often. This was not, after all, Cher or Diana Ross. Nevertheless, Underwood is certainly viewed as a diva.

Perhaps, a case can be made for Underwood being the white rural girls' Beyonce – sans all the politics. She writes and sings empowering female anthems that many times inspire her fans to shake their fists in the air while she sings 'em.

While Underwood is never less than stellar as a singer, she sounded best on "Cry Pretty" and especially on the hymn "How Great Though Art," which was combined with "Jesus, Take the Wheel" during an acoustic-ish set performed at the back of the arena. Underwood arrived there traveling over the audience on a swing and returned to the front on a swing – this time, with neon wings shining behind her.

Axl Rose, an L.A. music icon, reprised his duet role (most recently performed with Underwood at last year's Stagecoach) by joining her for his band Guns 'n Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle." However, as anthemic as that song was/is, her singing of "Something in the Water" atop a raised platform right before this was simply goosebump-inducing. It was, without question, a spiritual experience to see and hear her sing this one live.

While the setlist was a bit of a career retrospective, Underwood found room for two of her more recent singles, "Hate My Heart" and "Ghost Story." She was backed by a huge band of eight musicians, which sometimes included two fiddlers, as well as a banjo player. This instrumentation, though, was country-esque at best. It many times owed more to Rose's classic rock style than any kind of classic country. This classification didn't take anything away from the music's overall quality, however. Underwood put on a dazzling auditory and visual performance.

Jimmie Allen, speaking of dazzling, opened this evening wearing sunglasses and sparkly stuff all over his outfit. He talked a little too much at first, while sipping something from a plastic cup, but connected admirably with the ready audience when he strapped on a gold speckled acoustic guitar to sing his single "Down Home."

Allen joined Underwood later to dance and sing "Denim & Rhinestones" during the concert's homestretch. Underwood closed with one last warning shot, "Before He Cheats," before sending this satisfied crowd home. For sure, though, nobody in this audience felt cheated by this performance.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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