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Concert Reviews:
Carrie Underwood's 360-degree spectacle plays The Palace
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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AUBURN HILLS -- Carrie Underwood has certainly come a long way since making her live debut as a solo act nearly 11 years ago at the Palace.

The edition of Underwood that brought her Storytellers Tour to the arena on Tuesday night, March 22, presented the Season 4 "American Idol" champ again as full-blown pop diva, with more than 65 million records sold around the world and a stack of hit singles -- including 13 country No. 1's. And while there's still some twang in Underwood's repertoire, including "Wasted" amd "Little Toy Guns" on Tuesday, the singer and her eight-piece band focused primarily on rock and pop bombast during the 22-song set.

Wednesday's show scored as much with its staging as its music, too. While Underwood's 2012-13 Blown Away Tour flew her over the crowd's head to the back of the arena, the Storytellers Tour boasted an in-the-round production, with a lengthy stage stretched across the Palace floor that had more moving parts than most Detroit Pistons play diagrams. Platforms raised both Underwood and the musicians above the stage, with a center that rotated as they performed. There was an array of visual effects, including lasers, some modest pyrotechnics, a mirror ball for "Heartbeat," kabuki-style fabrics that billowed around the stage perimeter for "Blown Away" and a montage of photos of Underwood's husband, Mike Fisher of the NHL's Nashville Predators, and son Isaiah during "What I Never Knew I Always Wanted."

The net result was 360-degree of spectacle, with Underwood changing costumes six times over the course of its hour and 45 minutes but without losing the momentum that those kinds of breaks often engender.

With her voice in thunderous good form, Underwood kept the energy in first-gear throughout the show. Following an opening tape of AC/DC's "Back in Black" (nothin' says country like that, after all) Underwood emerged raised high above the stage as she belted out an opening blast of "Renegade Runaway," "Last Name" with a bit of "Something Bad" attached to the end, "Undo It," "Good Girl" and "Church Bells." The show had its quiet moments -- "Heartbeat," "Jesus Take the Wheel" and a cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" -- but they took a decided back seat to the parade of uptempo favorites such as "Dirty Laundry," "All-American Girl," "Cowboy Casanova" (which she sung atop a faux jukebox at center stage) and "Before He Cheats."

And for a rendition of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Fishin' in the Dark," Underwood brought opening acts Easton Corbin and the Swon Brothers back on stage for guest verses.

Underwood finished with dramatic renditions of "Smoke Break" and "Something in the Water," ending the show with more energy as well as a reminder that while "Idol," which brought her to the dance in the first place, may be ending in a couple of weeks, Underwood is still in full flight, and not likely to come down any time soon.



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