Carrie Underwood made a bold move in dubbing her third headlining trek “The Blown Away Tour.”
Whether she was throwing a tropical party complete with enormous beach balls, flowery leis and neon-hued confetti or getting caught up in an impressive simulation of a twister, Underwood made sure her show lived up to the hype: Her Oklahoma City fans were indeed "Blown Away” Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Checotah native glided above the crowd on a floating stage for several songs, invited “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson to conduct a surprise audition during her set, and performed in the midst of half a dozen massive, ever-changing screens, but her huge, clear voice maintained its rightful place as the main attraction throughout the show. Costume changes, light shows and other trappings of her stage spectacle were no competition for those powerful pipes; only her enthusiasm for her home state came close to matching them.
“We were in Texas last night, and I swear when we passed into Oklahoma — we passed that state line — I woke up. I knew I was home,” Underwood told her adoring fans, who filled about three-quarters of the available seats in the arena.
“It’s such an honor to be in my home state playing for my people.”
Although it was surprising that she didn’t sell out the Oklahoma venue, the audience — ranging from little girls in their mamas' laps to white-haired senior citizens — kept the volume and enthusiasm levels sky-high all night. Strutting around the stage in a series of exotic gowns and sassy ensembles, the Northeastern State University alumnus certainly seemed at home, smiling beatifically as she led thousands of admirers in sing-alongs to her familiar choruses, waving back at the youngsters in the multitude who caught her eye and easily charming the crowd with her down-home demeanor.
Like the music video for the title track of her platinum-selling 2012 album “Blown Away,” the concert paid visual homage to “The Wizard of Oz,” and the show opened with a Technicolor big-screen kaleidoscope that complemented her boisterous new hit “Good Girl.”
Underwood, 29, kept the energy high and attitude feisty with her tuneful kiss-off “Undo It,” and she maintained the vocal power but shifted to a more thoughtful mood with her emotional anthem “Wasted” and her cover of the Randy Travis ballad “I Told You So.” In keeping with her custom of mixing in a classic rock cover, she threw down on her roof-raising rendition of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.”
Throughout the show, she shifted between cuts from her new album — the vivid story song “Two Black Cadillacs,” the uproarious “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun” and the toe-tapping “Leave Love Alone,” which she turned into a duet with her precociously talented opening act Hunter Hayes — and her older hits — “Cowboy Casanova,” “Last Name,” “Temporary Home,” “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” “Before He Cheats” and “Remind Me,” which she belted with a video version of Brad Paisley.
The “American Idol” Season 4 winner left one of her familiar favorites to a Season 12 hopeful. Midway through the set, Underwood surprised the fans by introducing Jackson, one of the judges who worked with her on the reality TV show. He in turn shocked concertgoer Danielle Castleman, 18, of Sellersburg, Ind., by inviting her to take the stage.
As part of the TV singing contest’s new “Nominate an Idol” option, the teenager was given the chance to try out for the show right there, and Jackson picked the tune: Underwood’s “All-American Girl.”
“I but she’s not nervous at all,” quipped Underwood, who grinned broadly as Castleman began an impressive rendition of the upbeat anthem.
The fans clapped along, until the hopeful nailed the soaring chorus, then they burst into approving cheers.
“That was awesome,” Underwood said. “I gotta go. She can finish the show.”
Jackson added, “I think you’ve got what it takes to come and sing in front of me and my co-judges” and presented her with an “Idol” contestant number.
Castleman will return to Oklahoma City for the November “Idol” auditions.
“Now back to your regularly scheduled concert,” Underwood joked after kissing Jackson goodbye.
After the runaway success of the flying pickup truck featured in her “Play On Tour,” the itinerary naturally included another opportunity to soar among the fans. What first seemed to be a rustic corral transformed into a floating stage that was cleverly devised to give the illusion that it was borne aloft by color-shifting hot air balloons. Dressed in short denim shorts and a leather vest trimmed with floor-length fringe, Underwood glided above the arena floor crooned “Get out of This Town.” She and two guitar players stayed airborne for a good long while, delighting the spectators in the cheaper seats with “Nobody Ever Told You,” “Crazy Dreams,” “Do You Think About Me” and, most appropriately, “Thank God for Hometowns.”
“I think it’s about time we threw a little party in here,” Underwood declared as the platform began to slowly drift back toward the main stage.
Tossing flowery leis into the crowd below, she breezed into her tropical groove “One Way Ticket” while giant beach balls began bounding through the audience and a quick shower of colorful confetti rained down.
It was nothing compared to the stormy climax Underwood had in store. For her encore, she emerged sitting on a quaint daybed against the backdrop of an old-fashioned farmhouse to belt “I Know You Won’t.” She rose up, resplendent in an indigo gown, to launch into her dramatic new chart-topper “Blown Away.” With a wind machine tossing her long golden locks, she blasted through the story song as a replication of a tornado swirled theatrical smoke and confetti behind her.
When it was over, Underwood smiled, casually finger-combed her hair and bid her home-state fans adieu — until she returns for a Nov. 21 show at Tulsa’s BOK Center.
“Thank you so much,” she shouted in farewell. “God bless you. God bless Oklahoma.”
— Brandy McDonnell