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Carrie Underwood finds the right balance between song and spectacle

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Carrie Underwood performs at Mandalay Bay Events Center on March 2.
Photo: Bryan Haraway

The Details

CARRIE UNDERWOOD
Three and a half stars
Mandalay Bay Events Center, March 2

The last time Carrie Underwood played Las Vegas, in 2010 at the Orleans Arena as part of her Play On tour, she came off like a wannabe pop star, with elaborate set pieces, extensive costume changes and even a full-sized pick-up truck that carried her around the arena over the audience’s heads. This time around, Underwood still changed outfits multiple times and even rose above the crowd for a few songs, but the show was much more focused on her voice and her songs, achieving a more satisfactory balance that showcased her strongest talents while still playing to the entire arena.

Underwood’s American Idol-winning voice is still her greatest asset, and while her songs are often bland and mediocre, she sang the hell out of every single one of them, ably backed by her skilled band. “Jesus, Take the Wheel” may still be maudlin treacle, but man could she belt out those notes at the end. Underwood’s more aggressive, upbeat songs (“Undo It,” “Flat on the Floor,” “Cowboy Casanova”) worked best in the large-scale setting, highlighting the music’s arena-rock energy and downplaying its (rather minimal, really) country trappings.

At that 2010 show, Underwood looked like she was hanging on for dear life as she was carried around on that truck; here, she and three of her band members performed a few songs on a mobile stage that allowed them to relax and focus on what was important: connecting with the audience, and letting people hear Underwood as she sang her heart out.

Setlist:

“Good Girl”

“Undo It”

“Wasted”

“I Told You So”

“Two Black Cadillacs”

“Last Name”

“Temporary Home”

“Jesus, Take the Wheel”

“Cowboy Casanova”

“Get Out of This Town”

“Nobody Ever Told You”

“All-American Girl”

“One Way Ticket”

“Leave Love Alone”

“Flat on the Floor”

“Remind Me”

“Cupid’s Got a Shotgun”

“Before He Cheats”

Encore:

“I Know You Won’t”

“Blown Away”

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