Carrie Underwood’s new arena tour is now in full swing, having opened May 1st in Greensboro, North Carolina. From the moment the tour was announced — which features openers Maddie & Tae and Runaway June — it promised to put women front and center, and during Saturday night’s stop at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, it delivered exactly that and more. Here are 10 things we learned about the Cry Pretty Tour 360, which runs through October.
Underwood and co. rise up.
Over the last several years, the conversation over the lack of representation by women in country music, on the country charts, and at festivals and awards shows has reached fever pitch. On Underwood’s tour, all of the artists, from the headliner herself to first act Runaway June, began their sets by rising from below the stage. Maybe this was done simply because of the in-the-round stage setup — but we choose to see it as a metaphor that says women in country music are on their way up.
The 360 production is second to none.
Underwood’s 360 stage is a work of art, as it features an incredible hydraulic system that lifts up nearly half the stage. The platforms even have the ability to spew fire, which they do on several occasions. Underwood actually performs several songs from high above the arena floor, improving sight lines for much of the crowd, regardless of their seats. Meanwhile, the majority of the songs are accompanied by high-quality video projections on overhead screens. You could almost say you’re getting a show and a movie, all in one night.
Underwood embraces the sexy and smoky.
While performing “Drinking Alone” from her newest album Cry Pretty, Underwood dons a black cocktail dress and a fedora and struts over to red couch, where she’s flanked by bandmates playing saxophone and cello. Thanks to those high-def screens, it appears as if she’s been transported to a smoky jazz lounge. “I took on a new role making this album, and that role was co-producer,” she told the crowd. “I got to play around with sounds and come up with some really interesting and groovy stuff like ‘Drinking Alone.'”
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Medleys hit all the bases.
It’s nearly impossible to cover all of Underwood’s hits in a two-hour concert, so enter the medley. In the middle of the show, the singer pays homage to many of the songs that helped thrust her into superstardom: “Temporary Home,” “See You Again,” “I Know You Won’t” and “Just a Dream” all gel nicely in medley form. “We thought it could be fun to take a stroll down memory lane,” Underwood said, acknowledging that not all are concert staples. “Some of these we haven’t done in a while.”
“Jesus, Take the Wheel” is still impressive.
There are few songs in Underwood repertoire that go as deep as “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” Although her first country Number One hit is nearly 14 years old, it remains a mainstay in Underwood’s show. It’s easy to see why. On the Cry Pretty Tour 360, Underwood sings the crossover ballad after being jacked up high into the air on a hydraulic lift with smokes creating a heavenly illusion. “I don’t know how many times I’ve sang that song, and it never gets old,” she said. “I’m so happy to be in a genre of music where we can sing important songs.” The performance continues to be meaningful, powerful and awe-inspiring.
Underwood celebrates local “champions.”
When Underwood and a few of her songwriting buddies started writing “The Champion,” they only had football in mind: the song, featuring rapper Ludacris, was played during Super Bowl LII. Since then, it’s taken on new life as a rallying cry for people overcoming obstacles. Underwood quickly realized this and incorporated it into the tour. But it’s not just another entry in her set. In every city Underwood calls upon a local “champion” to rap Ludacris’ part. On Saturday, it was a fan named Steven who suffers from spina bifida and recently had his 47th surgery. His ovation was deafening.
The tour pays tribute to strong women.
Underwood may have pop appeal, but she’s well aware that country icons like Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Trisha Yearwood moved mountains for artists like her. “Maybe one of the reasons why this tour is possible is all the women who laid the foundation for us to do what we do,” Underwood said with opening acts Maddie & Tae and Runaway June by her side. Then all took part in a tribute, singing Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man,” Parton’s “9 to 5,” Yearwood’s “She’s in Love With the Boy,” Faith Hill’s “Wild One” and Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.”
Underwood is in the band.
A highlight of Underwood’s 2018 Storyteller Tour came when the singer played a mean harmonica on “Choctaw County Affair.” On the Cry Pretty Tour 360, she shows her prowess on three more instruments. While belting out “Church Bells,” she plays rock guitar hero while strumming an electric six-string. For the Latin-tinged new song “End Up With You,” she moves to bongos, tapping out a rhythm to do her best Sheila E. And on “Just a Dream” she settles in behind an upright piano.
The superstar is a working mom.
Underwood announced this tour while she was pregnant with her second baby and has since opened up even more about her personal life. Onstage on Saturday, she gave fans a glimpse of her duties as a working mom via images at home with husband Mike Fisher during one of her four costume changes. Other pictures showed their kids, Isaiah and Jacob, with all of the images moving together on the screen as a virtual heart was drawn around her family. For Underwood, yes, love wins.
The Cry Pretty album cover comes to life.
The album art of Cry Pretty depicts Underwood with glitter under her eyes in the shape of tears. On the tour, the cover comes to life, as the singer is shown underneath the stage looking in the mirror and applying the makeup prior to the encore. She even begins the song below stage, singing into that same mirror. But as the first chorus hits, there’s Underwood, proudly belting out the title track to a full arena.