27 June 2012
Having grown up with my grandparents in Western Queensland, I'm well versed when it comes to country music. Well, the old kind at least. Cash, Kristofferson, Haggard, Pride, etcetera, etcetera. And whilst my tastes have evolved, I still have a soft spot for the genre. So, it was with the slightest hint of nostalgia that I boarded the 96 tram and headed for St Kilda's Palais Theatre.
PHOTO GALLERY: Check out all the snaps from the gig here!
What I was soon to find out however, was that like my musical tastes, so too has country music evolved.
The show begins with a performance from Damien Leith. Now, despite the obvious connections both Leith and Underwood have to the internationally successful 'Idol' franchise, the Irish-Australian's inclusion on the bill seems like a strange decision to me. He's not country. He's not pop. He's not anything really. And despite seeming to be a genuinely wonderful guy, with a great voice, and a good band, he just doesn't seem to fit. After all, this is a crowd here to see a young, beautiful international country starlet... not a slightly dorky dad.
Leith however, does cover one of my favourite songs of all time, Bob Dylan's 'I'll be your baby tonight', as well as a couple of Orbison numbers that the crowd recognises. The same recognition, on the other hand, is not forthcoming when it comes to his originals.
Following Leith's set, there's a short interval during which I take the time to scan the room. At this point, I must say that I am quite disappointed at the lack of Akubras/Stetsons in the house. Sure, there may be quite a few sitting on laps, and we are in fact indoors, but I really want to see more. I don't know why, I just do.
Anyway, the largely hatless crowd is predominantly women. There are a few token boyfriends, and even a significant 'older' contingent (could this just be the weathered faces of hard working country folk?), but again, it is mostly girls. I guess you could say that many here tonight have come because they idolise Ms Underwood. But really, why wouldn't they? She's stunning. She's talented. She's famous. And much like her opening act, she seems to be a really nice person.
Expectedly then, the crowd erupt as she takes the stage.
Dressed in a black 'jacket and shorts' number, that sparkles courtesy of drag-queen volumes of sequins, she cuts a dazzling figure amongst her coloured lightshow. Her blonde locks look a bit 'Modern Farrah Fawcett' as the band kicks into 'Good Girl', the lead single from her fourth album. This proves to be a rocking way to start the show.
Watch Carrie's latest and very sexy 'GOOD GIRL' video!
Next up is 'Flat on the floor'. It kicks arse. Another rock-inspired number, the song has the crowd nodding along in an almost polite-type-mosh. I'm less polite in my movement. In fact, we're only 2 songs in and I want to tackle trees. Settle down Ryan. Luckily for me, she brings the mood back down with 'Wasted', one of the singles from her debut record.
As I spend the next few songs recovering from my rush of adrenaline, I marvel at her 8-piece band. They're all multi-instrumentalists (banjos, mandolins, fiddles, guitars, pedal steel, dobros, keyboards, drums, organs...) with freakish prodigy-like abilities. I am more than jealous and seriously consider never playing guitar again.
There is a good mix of songs amongst the opening few numbers. There's everything from the softness of 'Temporary Home' to the punch-you-thrice-in-the-face-rock of 'Last Name'. She finishes the first half of her set with one of her biggies, 'Cowboy Cassanova'.
The second half, which is only interrupted by the scuttle of roadies bringing chairs onstage, begins with a few acoustic numbers. Most of the band have disappeared at this point and the vibe is very friendly and intimate. They return for the tropical flavoured 'One way ticket'.
After further rearrangement (is this a theatrical stage show?), the band kick into a familiar orchestral riff. It is INXS's 'Never tear us apart'. The crowd love it and sing along. But no standing ovation. No, this was surprisingly saved for her medley of 'Jesus take the wheel' and 'How great thou art'.
Carrie and band finish their set on another hit 'Before he cheats' and head offstage.
Now, whilst everyone expects encores these days, Ms Underwood and crew seem not to fully grasp the concept. You see, after what seemed to be approximately 32 seconds, they jumped back on stage. At least give us a chance to chant for your return!!
Two songs wrap up the show. They are 'I know you won't' and 'Blown away'. Coincidentally, I didn't think she would, but she blew me away.
Thank you Carrie Underwoood. Next time you're in town, let's have a coffee.
PS: Sorry to my touch football team who ran around in the cold whilst I was ogling perhaps the most beautiful country singer in the universe.
Review: Ryan Yip
Photographer: Kate Wehl