Concert Reviews

Is Carrie Underwood Country Music's Beyonce?

Carrie Underwood
With Easton Corbin and the Swon Brothers
American Airlines Center, Dallas
Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016

Carrie Underwood is like a Barbie doll but better. There isn’t a note she can’t hit. Her blonde hair bounces with every step, yet never gets messy. Her outfits are made for a pageant queen and somehow she makes them look like everyday wear. She commands the stage with each stomp in her high heels. She carries around her mic stand like it’s the weight of a yard stick. One second, she’s a tight-dress vixen, and the next, she’s a church choir leader.

Underwood might be the country Beyoncé.

On Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center, the Swon Brothers and Easton Corbin opened up for the American Idol winner. If you were, say, in a coma since 2005 when she won the famous title, you wouldn’t recognize Underwood today. She’s not the small-town country girl who auditioned with “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” She’s grown out of simply singing cover songs for a few million strangers in their living rooms. Now, she’s performing on her own terms for her own fans on her own stage. Her performances are calculated and choreographed down to each step. Her voice is loud and powerful enough to rival Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston — something she proved when she covered “I Will Always Love You” on Tuesday night.
Reasons to add a tick in the admittedly lofty Beyoncé comparison include, for starters, her star power. With six costume changes that included everything, even her jewelry, it was hard to look away from her. Then there’s her voice. Even though she is touring the country and singing every night, you wouldn’t know it. It was flawless as she hit each note and proved why she’s been named CMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year.

But her stage presence. There’s no one else in country music like her right now. Miranda Lambert is a tad more rough around the edges than Underwood. Kacey Musgraves is more subdued than Underwood. There are others who don’t even compare to Underwood. She’s in a different wheelhouse. And she proved it during her Dallas stop of the Storyteller Tour.

Opening with “Renegade Runaway,” the Oklahoma native continued to keep up the energy with “Something Bad,” “Good Girl,” “Cowboy Casanova” and others. With Underwood’s show, there is no room for error. Nothing is improvised. While she danced around the stage that sat in the center of the arena (all seats were open), she pulled off a well-rehearsed show while still looking as if it was an exciting night for her.

And then there’s her touch of personal life to the stage. While it’s pretty easy to separate Real Life Underwood from On Stage Underwood, the two worlds met briefly when she sang “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted,” a song about the two men in her life — her husband and son. While she sat on top of the piano, she looked up to the screen and watched a slideshow of pictures of the two of them. It was a nice break from the heel stomping and drum beating earlier in the set.
Where that Beyoncé argument might break down a little bit is her fans aren’t as diehard as those in the Beyhive. While fans stood and sang during the first part of the concert, as soon as she started into slower songs like “Heartbeat” and led into “Jesus Take the Wheel” the fans sat and remained seated — something that would not likely happen at a Beyoncé concert.

And Underwood’s songs all start to sound alike at a point. You could make a case for “Good Girl” and “Cowboy Casanova” being pretty much the same song. It’s easy to confuse even some of her hit songs.

Whether she’s country music’s Beyoncé or not, her encore of “Something in the Water” was damn near spiritual. The song — about getting baptized and being reborn — ended with a short verse from “Amazing Grace” and water pouring down around the singer, a touch straight out of Justin Bieber's playbook. The underlying message was clear: Underwood might save us all.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paige Skinner has written for the Dallas Observer since 2014.
Contact: Paige Skinner