Review: Carrie Underwood wows Columbus with show-stopping performance of ‘Cry Pretty’

Carrie Underwood

If you want a CliffsNotes review of Carrie Underwood’s Saturday night show at Nationwide Arena, listen to her song “Crazy Angels.”

“You know where to find me on a Sunday morning/But tonight, I come with a whiskey warning,” she sings.

The two sides of the country superstar were on full display at the Columbus stop on the “Denim & Rhinestones Tour.” Case in point: she opened the show with the upbeat “Good Girl” and closed with the dark, headlight-smashing hit “Before He Cheats.”

In between, there were tales of fun and faith, bolstered by Underwood’s incredible voice that hasn’t waned in the nearly 20 years since she won “American Idol” in 2005.
Underwood burst onstage in bedazzled, black jean shorts and a top, along with glittery boots, and tore through a slew of high-energy songs, including old hits “Undo It” and Cowboy Casanova,” along with “Hate My Heart,” a single from her latest album, “Denim & Rhinestones.”

Beyond spunky songs about cheating men, the Grammy-winner’s catalog includes epic tales of complicated relationships and family secrets. She offered engaging performances of some of those gems, including “Church Bells,” “Blown Away” and Two Black Cadillacs.”

Underwood praised that narrative style, a hallmark of the country music genre, after changing into a cowboy hat and jacket with plenty of fringe—or a what she described as a more “countryfied” look.

“We get to tell stories,” she said, holding a glass of red wine. “We get to slip into character a little bit.”

Underwood had several other outfit changes, from sparkling shorts to gorgeous gowns, but she might as well have worn a tracksuit. Her vocal prowess is akin to an athlete’s physical ability. All of her songs are difficult to sing, but she sailed through them with perfect endurance. Standouts included a show-stopping performance of “Cry Pretty,” the aching song inspired by her miscarriages, which earned her a standing ovation before she even finished the number.

Her voice also soared on a tear-inducing performance of the Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art,” an addendum to her song “Jesus Take the Wheel” (and how thrilling to hear the story about a trip to Cincinnati sitting in an Ohio venue).

Underwood also alluded to her faith with the new song “Garden,” a simple, encouraging tune about reaping what you sow.
But she balanced the pensive with the playful; she led a call-and-response segment with a glittery bullhorn, performed a choreographed dance with country singer Jimmie Allen, also her opening act, and impressed with a drum solo.

She also had fun engaging with her band, which included the requisite guitars, bass, drums and two fiddles.

“We could’ve stopped at one fiddle but we said no,” Underwood told the audience. “That’s how country we are.”
She even flew above the stage on a flower-adorned swing and, later, inside a sphere attached to a pair of wings. She’s not a fallen angel, mind you, but just one “flying low,” according to “Crazy Angels.”

Before she closed out the show, Underwood donned a Guns N’ Roses leather jacket and performed a cover of “Welcome to the Jungle.”

While she certainly has the pipes for the song, it wasn’t the most convincing rendition. But you can’t fault her for trying, especially given her mission, as outlined in “Crazy Angels.”

“Even good girls wanna have a good time.”