For the thousands of folks who spent Halloween inside BOK Center instead of trick or treating, the “treat” was homegrown music superstar Carrie Underwood putting on a vocal and aerial show.
The ninth stop on Underwood’s Denim & Rhinestones Tour featured the Checotah songbird taking flight. By way of a swing and wings, she traveled by air from one end of the arena to the other. She was on familiar turf — and above it — all on the same Monday.
“It feels good to be home tonight,” Underwood said early in the show. “Welcome to the Denim & Rhinestones Tour. Let’s have some fun on this Halloween night, shall we?”
Later, Underwood told a story about her new album, which shares the same name as the tour. When it came time to get a game plan cooking for the album, Underwood’s co-producer asked her what she wanted to do. Her reply: “I just want to have fun.”
Underwood looked every bit like someone who was having fun inside BOK Center, whether she was singing and dancing with supporting act Jimmie Allen (he returned to team up with her on one song) or briefly playing drums (who knew she could do that?) or channeling Axl Rose during a rocking cover of “Welcome to the Jungle.”
About a third of the nearly two-hour homecoming show was devoted to material from the new album. The set list included eight of the album’s 12 tracks.
Underwood plucked hits from her 17-year recording career in fleshing out the rest of the set list. She has recorded 28 No. 1 singles since a 2005 “American Idol” triumph put her on the fast track to stardom.
Maybe Simon Cowell was a prophet? Cowell was among “American Idol” judges when Underwood was among competitors on the show. He said this two months before she was crowned: “Carrie, you’re not just the girl to beat, you’re the person to beat. I’ll make a prediction: Not only will you win this show; you’ll sell more records than any other previous ‘Idol’ winner.”
Actually, Cowell undersold Underwood’s future. She has sold more than 66 million records and, in the singles department, is the most awarded female country artist in RIAA history.
Underwood was a Northeastern State University student before winning “American Idol.” She made history when her first single (“Inside Your Heaven”) helped her become the first country artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her second single, “Jesus, Take the Wheel” (she got emotional when talking about it Monday) was a No. 1 country song. You know the rest of the story — a constant stream of radio gold ever since.
Underwood opened (“Good Girl”) and closed (“Before He Cheats”) her performance with No. 1 songs and, in between, sprinkled in everything from gospel (“How Great Thou Art,” a track on her “My Savior” album) to a duet with Jason Aldean, never mind that he wasn’t in the building.
It was announced a few hours before showtime that Underwood will perform “Crazy Angels” from the new album at the 2022 American Music Awards, which is scheduled to air on ABC Nov. 20. It’s another sign that her gigs have gotten more significant since her early days in Oklahoma.
According to electronic archives, Underwood’s name first appeared in the Tulsa World on June 23, 1998. Then 15, she was listed among performers for a Woolaroc KidsFest event in Bartlesville, where the talent roster included gun-slinging ghost riders, rope-twirling Polecat Annie, Huffy the Clown, the Silver City Ramblers and magician/music man P.T. Farquar.
Underwood has gone from sharing bills with ghost riders to performing “Ghost Story” (the lead single on the new album) for an adoring home-state crowd. Said Underwood: “I feel like I’m very blessed to be from Oklahoma.”
For the second consecutive year, an Oklahoma music artist graced a BOK stage on Halloween. LANY, fronted by Tulsa’s Paul Klein, performed at BOK Center on Halloween of 2021.