ORLANDO – Glancing down at the audience that was literally screaming with excitement several feet below her, country singer Carrie Underwood made a point of noting that when she was putting together this latest tour, she’d been determined to make it a very memorable one.
“We started this tour about a year ago,” Underwood said, about midway through her concert at the Amway Center arena on Friday. “We’d sit down as a group and brainstorm on what crazy things we could do, if we could anything.”
They came up with quite a bit, but judging from the audience reaction, it was clear that what Underwood called a “floating stage” would prove to be one of the most memorable.
As a video screen behind the stage displayed images of hot air balloons floating into the sky, a section of the main stage where Underwood and her band was performing was raised, and then began literally floating above the audience, seemingly levitated by four hot air balloons. In actuality, steel cables carried the performers on the small makeshift stage above the audience, but the illusion worked just the same, as Underwood sang several songs while she sailed over the crowd.
It was a massive audience, in fact, with more than 14,000 tickets sold and seats filled at the Amway, as Orlando welcomed Carrie Marie Underwood, the country music singer and songwriter who rose to fame after becoming the winner of the fourth season of American Idol in 2005. The first female artist to win back-to-back Academy of Country Music Awards for Entertainer of the Year (in 2009 and 2010), her debut album, Some Hearts, has become the best-selling solo female debut album in country music history since February 2008.
And as Orlando turned out in force to welcome Underwood on Friday, filling nearly the entire Amway arena, so Underwood was equally thrilled, she noted, to be in the City Beautiful.
City residents, she said, should feel blessed to be living in such a terrific place.
“You’ve got great weather, you’ve got great people, and you’ve got Disney,” she said. “I was at Disney last August – loved it!”
A native of Oklahoma who was raised on her parent’s farm and has been singing since she was a child, Underwood graduated from Northeastern State University, and shot to stardom after she auditioned for American Idol. Underwood came to the Amway for her The Blown Away Tour, joined by fellow country singer Hunter Hayes, who opened the show for a 40-minute performance starting at 7:30 p.m.
Blown Away started at 8:40 p.m., in flashy style: the huge video screen behind the stage opened to images of a dusty Midwest plain, with a windmill blowing. In the distance, a tornado is approaching ….
Underwood performed a range of songs, from her country music hits to a rocking version of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” to some holiday songs.
In addition to thanking the audience for sharing their pre-Christmas weekend with her and wishing everyone a happy holiday, Underwood had some fun noting the date of the concert meant they were right in the middle of the prediction on the Mayan calendar that the world would come to an abrupt end on Dec. 21, 2012.
“Can you believe it’s December 21 and we’re still here. The world didn’t end,” Underwood laughed. “Whether it’s Christmas coming or the end of the world, let’s play some music.”
Underwood also noted that she was donating money raised on The Blown Away Tour to the American Red Cross – meaning the audience was giving to this charitable organization simply by attending the concert.
“On the ticket it says one dollar has been donated to the Red Cross,” Underwood said. “Give yourself a nice round of applause.”
She also had a lot of words of gratitude for the people in the audience. Underwood noted that when she was in college, she was like a lot of other students who really didn’t know what they wanted to do with their lives. Her success, she added, was owed to the millions who have become her loyal fans.
“I want to thank you for the amazing support you’ve given me over the past seven and a half years,” she said.
During the concert, Underwood performed a duet with Hayes, who had opened the show by noting “I’m so excited to be here tonight. You still feel the love out there? I love you, too.”
His repertoire included a rocking country blues version of the holiday song “Winter Wonderland,” which he introduced by saying “There’s a Christmas song we keep messing up, so if it’s okay with you, let’s play some Christmas music.”
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