After welcoming the prettiest man in country music Friday night, the Minnesota State Fair turned to the Âhottest woman in country music to headline the grandstand ÂSaturday.
Carrie Underwood followed Keith Urban to the fairâ€™s big stage, resulting in the third sold-out concert there in as many nights (Def Leppard and Styx kicked things off Thursday). Underwood may have been the hottest ticket of the entire 12-day lineup, too.
The Season 4 â€œAmerican Idolâ€ winner returned to the road in July after pursuing other interests, like her not-so-interesting live NBC-TV performance in â€œThe Sound of Music,â€ and then becoming a mother in February. Demand for her music has not lessened one iota. Her 13th No. 1 country hit came last year, â€œSomething in the Water,â€ and expectations are building for her October album, â€œStoryteller.â€
Anticipation was such that a large chunk of the 13,000 attendees turned out early for Virginia-bred opening band Native Run, which has barely made a dent in the country charts and frankly doesn’t deserve to play crowds this size.
Led by singer Rachel Beauregard and guitarist/co-vocalist Bryan Dawley, Native Run was decent enough when it followed the lovelorn country-rock style of Nashville faves the Civil Wars in such songs as â€œWhere You Been.â€ But the group tried too hard to play itself up as a party-hearty rock act, taking the â€œwarm-up actâ€ tag too literally in â€œThe Party Came Looking for Me.â€ Worst of all, Beauregard hopelessly rapped out the theme to the â€œFresh Prince of Bel-Airâ€ before an ultra-bleached cover of TLCâ€™s â€œWaterfalls.â€
Underwood hit the stage in no-nonsense, hear-me-soar fashion with the urgent title track to her last all-new album, 2012â€™s â€œBlown Away.â€ And she really didnâ€™t let up on the passion or drama through the first three songs, also including â€œTwo Black Cadillacsâ€ and â€œWasted.â€
After so many big local concerts of late with male country singers hitting all the trite notes of macho bro-twang, it was refreshing to hear her turn more serious and heartfelt. And her cover by a hitmaking countryman of yesteryear, Randy Travis’ “I Told You So,” was one of the tender highlights of the show.
So it was extra disappointing when she eventually followed the rowdy bro-twang mold. It sounded like she was back covering Aerosmith on â€œAmerican Idolâ€ when she sang â€œUndo It.â€ â€œGood Girlâ€ and â€œCowboy Cassanovaâ€ sounded like pandering to the festive Âatmosphere, too.
Still, Underwood did not need to try too hard to sell herself as a top-tier act in mainstream country. She has come a long way in a short time, one thatâ€™s especially impressive compared to every â€œIdolâ€ winner besides Kelly Clarkson.
â€œThis year is my 10th anniversary of trying out for â€˜American Idol,â€™â€‰â€ she pointed out before â€œLittle Toy Guns,â€ a new song on her greatest-hits album last year.
That she already has enough hits to fill an anthology is impressive, and the crowd certainly knew and loved the ones that came later in the show, including â€œJesus, Take the Wheel,â€ â€œAll-American Girl,” the pre-encore finale “Last Name” and the big, sassy finish â€œBefore He Cheats.â€ She also fared well singing â€œSmoke Breakâ€ for the first time on tour, the fast-rising single from her upcoming album.
A few more tracks from the new record actually would have been nice, but after Saturdayâ€™s performance it was quite clear weâ€™ll be seeing plenty more of Underwood.
Here’s Carrie’s set list from Saturday:
Blown Away / Two Black Cadillacs / Wasted / Undo It / I Told You So (Randy Travis cover) / Good Girl / Little Toy Guns / Cowboy Casanova / Don’t Forget to Remember Me (unplugged) / Leave Love Alone / Flat on the Floor See You Again / See You Again (with snippet of Wiz Khalifaâ€™s song of same name) / So Small / Smoke Break / Jesus, Take the Wheel / Some Hearts (Marshall Crenshaw cover) / All-American Girl / Cupid’s Got a Shotgun / Last Name
ENCORE: Something in the Water / Before He Cheats
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Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib