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Review: Underwood's whirlwind of wail blows Civic Center audience away

By Victoria McCabe

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away" tour roared through the Charleston Civic Center last night, leaving a wild and animated crowd in its wake.

Grammy-nominated singer-guitarist Hunter Hayes kicked off the concert in fine fashion. The young rising star, who recently collaborated with music legend Stevie Wonder, has been touted as country's answer to Justin Bieber.

Hayes' impressive set, comprised mostly of songs from his self-titled debut, was extremely well received by the enthusiastic crowd. The majority of the audience might have come to see headliner Carrie Underwood, but they all left as Hayes fans.

Underwood has become such a successful country superstar, it's easy to forget her humble beginnings as an unknown, unsigned "American Idol" contestant.

An Oklahoma native and the daughter of a schoolteacher and a sawmill worker, Underwood was crowned the winner of the reality singing competition's fourth season in 2005. Shortly before her victory, judge Simon Cowell accurately predicted she would go on to outsell every other "Idol" champion.

Now a platinum-selling, Grammy-winning, Country Music Awards-hosting, Opry-inducted singer-songwriter, model and actor, Underwood is certainly the most popular and prosperous of the "Idol" progeny. Her recent accomplishments include a starring role in NBC's upcoming live production of "The Sound of Music," inclusion on People Magazine's 2013 "Most Beautiful" celebrities list, and being chosen to sing this season's Sunday Night Football opening theme.

Underwood's "Blown Away" tour has sold out across the country and she definitely gives her fans their money's worth. Her powerhouse vocals, shining stage presence, ostentatious and ever-changing wardrobe and extravagant concert accoutrement kept the audience's attention for the duration of her set, which featured a solid mix of fan favorites both old and new.

Among the career-spanning, crowd-pleasing hits she sang were "Wasted" and "Jesus Take the Wheel" from her 2005 debut, "Some Hearts"; "Flat on the Floor," "All-American Girl," and "Last Name" from 2007's "Carnival Ride"; "Undo It," "Temporary Home" and "Cowboy Casanova" from 2009's "Play On"; and "Good Girl," "See You Again," "Two Black Cadillacs," and "One Way Ticket" from her most recent release, "Blown Away."

The biggest response from the crowd came during Underwood's thunderous performance of her woman-scorned anthem, "Before He Cheats."

Underwood also endeared herself by dedicating a brief verse from "Country Roads" to her West Virginian fans.

Hayes returned to the stage for a duet "Leave Love Alone" and the wonders of modern technology allowed Underwood to sing "Remind Me" with a digital image of West Virginia native Brad Paisley.

The Paisley video was just one of many high-tech spectacles of Underwood's stage production, which also included large LED screens, a simulated cyclone erupting from the stage floor and an imitation hot air balloon lifting the singer above her astounded and adoring audience.

The encores of "I Know You Won't" and the popular title track from her new album, "Blown Away," were also highlights. The concert's tornado imagery was a fitting metaphor for the whirlwind of wail that is Underwood.

Rarely has a singer proven to be such a force of nature in concert, pushing their voice to its very limits with every note of every song. Underwood's live performance was fierce, fantastically flamboyant and filled with nonstop energy.

 


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