Last Night: Carrie Underwood at Toyota Center
It's different at the top of the world.
Because critics are the spoiled little creatures that we are, we are traditionally given seats that cost most fans quite a bit of coin. Hell, Alicia Keys' people put me on the third row. Get told Carrie Underwood is not allowing press tickets on her Blown Away tour, and it suddenly becomes an opportunity to teach somebody a $70 lesson, by God.
So that was your humble correspondent up on the nosebleed level of Toyota Center Tuesday night, section 423, row 5, seat 17. But instead of fuming over this perceived slight, I saw a chance I don't normally get -- to see how well an artist like Underwood can or can't grab the people in the (cough) cheap seats.
It is possible; I've seen it myself. In the rafters of Reliant Stadium during this year's rodeo (which only cost $17), I got completely caught up in Lady Antebellum's cover of the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women." Underwood didn't quite pull that off Tuesday, but she had her moments.
Taking a break from fighting Tennessee's proposed "Ag Gag" bill on Twitter (it would require anyone filming or photographing suspected animal cruelty to turn over their footage to the authorities within 48 hours), Underwood said not a word about this controversy Tuesday. It has been quite the talk around Nashville this week, both the state capitol and Music Row, due to her well-known animal-rights activism. Good time to be on tour.
But maybe she should have said something. Underwood feels somehow penned in by her relentlessly wholesome image compared to her main country rivals at the moment, serial dater Taylor Swift and shotgun-toting Miranda Lambert. From auditioning for and then winning American Idol onward, Underwood's life has followed the same trajectory of a garden-variety fairy tale: Mantels full of awards, a hunky hockey-star husband, thousands if not millions of meat-eating fans who can't possibly all share her vegan beliefs.
Underwood must be aware of this; Tuesday the visuals of dark woods and a bright meadow surrounding "Temporary Home" came straight out of a classic Disney movie. We'll get to The Wizard of Oz a little later, but on some level she seems acutely aware of her role as a vessel or a conduit for her fans to project themselves right back onto her. But the blank slate is a little too blank.