My last update was a review of Lady Gaga's Born This Way Ball. It was a multi-million dollar stadium show with countless costume changes and over-the-top props like a giant talking head and fully functional Gothic castle. Less than a week later, I flew to Melbourne to catch Carrie Underwood at the Palais Theatre. She wore the same outfit the whole time, had no props - apart from a faulty smoke machine that almost choked the front row - and performed a setlist comprised of songs that have never graced a commercial radio station in Australia. Her show was infinitely better.
We all know Carrie has an amazing voice and she made it her mission to showcase her vocal prowess during the intimate concert. The opening number was a gorgeous rendition of her current country hit "Good Girl". Her band was tight and she looked beautiful but the empty stage was a bit jarring at first. She slipped straight into "Flat On The Floor" (the opening track from 2007's Carnival Ride) before dusting off "Wasted" - one of my favourite tracks from her mega-selling debut. By that stage I was expecting the 29-year-old to take a breather and speak to the audience but she plowed straight into the darkly majestic "Two Black Cadillacs". The twisted revenge fantasy has to be the next single from Blown Away. It shows the American Idol champ in a whole new light.
When Carrie finally spoke to the audience, it came as something of a shock to realise that she's actually quite awkward. She struggled gamely to make some banter but it seemed forced and I was grateful when she started belting out a bunch of early hits - mostly from her stunning sophomore set. The country queen tore up "So Small", gave me goosebumps with her pitch-perfect rendition of "Temporary Home", rocked out to "Last Name", melted hearts with "Just A Dream" and came out of her shell to introduce her cover of Randy Travis' "I Told You So". As the show wore on, her initial awkwardness became increasingly endearing and she had definitely loosened up by the time she returned to material from her new album. "Leave Love Alone" sounded meatier live and I was happy to hear another song from the incredibly underrated Play On when she burst into the unintentionally camp "Cowboy Casanova".
Next up was "Nobody Ever Told You", which is probably my least favourite song on Blown Away. It sounds like something from Taylor Swift's debut and is - as such - beneath her. Carrie made up for it by delivering a killer version of her Max Martin-penned country-pop anthem "Quitter". I can't believe the gem wasn't released as a single. America's sweetheart then took it down a notch with a stripped-back trio of songs beginning with "Do You Think About Me". This beautiful mid-tempo ballad is another hit-in-waiting from Blown Away. I'm not sure the same can be said about the lyrically-challenged, reggae-tinged "One Way Ticket". I love it - but for all the wrong reasons! A perky rendition of "Undo It" ended the lo-fi interlude on a high note.
Carrie won a lot of new fans by covering the INXS classic "Never Tear Us Apart". She said she wanted to perform a song by an Australian artist but I was betting on a Keith Urban cover. Her version of the '80s rock-ballad was beautiful. I hope she includes it on a future album. The next two songs were the dual highlights of the show for me. "Jesus Take The Wheel" has never sounded better - the country diva got a well-deserved standing ovation - and "Before He Cheats" still packs a killer punch. I would have happily paid my money just to hear those two songs! After those classics, "Cupid's Got A Shotgun" (one of the less appealing songs from Blown Away) was a bit of a letdown but "I Know You Won't" was a perfect way to end the show. Oklahoma's best export returned shortly afterwards to belt out the new album's title track and really blew me away with her flawless vocal display. Carrie is an absolute superstar. I'm glad Australia is finally waking up to her amazing talent and brilliant music.