Carrie Underwood soared at the Times Union Center Tuesday night — literally.
Halfway through the Oklahoma singer’s nearly two-hour set, she and three members of her band loaded into a gated-off section of the stage, which then promptly lifted into the air and began traveling slowly along a track on the ceiling.
“It’s so crazy to be onstage. ... I can’t see everyone’s faces, and I didn’t like that too much,” Underwood said to explain the elaborate gimmick, before launching into “Thank God For Hometowns” — one of six songs she tore through while slowly traveling (and rotating) over the crowd.
This was just one part — albeit the most impressive part — of the visually stunning show Underwood has put together in support of her fourth studio album, “Blown Away.” Three large movable screens, giant beach balls, confetti and four costume changes by Underwood were all part of the spectacle, as the packed crowd screamed in delight with each new surprise.
Of course, the visuals would be empty without a good performance, and Underwood delivered in that department, as well. There’s a good reason Underwood has been one of the few “American Idol” winners to transcend the show, as she made clear throughout the evening on songs from all four of her albums.
The theatrics began early, as Underwood emerged from a door in the giant screens and immediately began belting out “Good Girl,” a snarling track from “Blown Away” that set a party atmosphere for the rest of the evening. She continued belting at the top of her lungs through “Undo It” and “Wasted,” finally slowing down for the evening’s first ballad, “I Told You So.”
But even when she was singing full force, she still had nuance — “Two Black Cadillacs,” another new song, was a prime example, also giving Underwood’s eight-piece band a chance to shine, particularly keyboardist Jonathan Hamby and powerhouse drummer Garrett Goodwin, who set the song’s slightly off-kilter, dark groove.
Other highlights included the thundering, riff-heavy “Last Name” and “Cowboy Casanova,” as well as the entire “floating” portion of the set, which saw the band strip down to acoustic instruments for “Get Out of This Town,” “Nobody Ever Told You” and perhaps the best of the bunch, the reggae-tinged “One Way Ticket.”
The show built to a feverish climax with a duet with opener Hunter Hayes on “Leave Love Alone,” a surprisingly faithful run through Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” and the tongue-in-cheek “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun.” “Before He Cheats” closed out the main set with a bang, leaving a rabid crowd hungry for more.
The arena was already full when Hayes hit the stage shortly after 7:30 for his 45-minute opening set. At 21, Hayes has a youthful, pop-oriented take on country music that played well to this crowd, and his songs are enjoyable enough. But it was Hayes’ guitar playing abilities that truly elevated the set beyond the typical, up-and-coming singer-songwriter fare — he took a solo on nearly every song and put the other musicians onstage to shame at times with his tasteful and often inventive playing.
Best of all was his newest single, “Somebody’s Heartbreak,” which began as a typical power ballad but soon morphed into a bluesy rock jam, anchored by Hayes’ fiery playing.