Carrie Underwood has gone from Checotah, Okla., to the top of the country charts, and Friday she'll be in the Sears Centre.
The show is bound to be big, with the "American Idol" winner's powerful voice, a long line of hits with hooks and a parade of costume changes. If country band Little Big Town weren't opening for her, they'd go to the show anyway.
That's what Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town says in a call from the road. Her band is the anti-Underwood, building a sound around flawless four-part harmonies instead of a solo singer. Yet she knows a good thing when she hears it.
"When Carrie comes out, the crowd just comes unglued," Fairchild says. "She is a kick-butt singer, just a girl who has the chops. The tone of her voice is so easy to listen to."
This tour has Underwood coming into her own as a headliner. Partly because she now has enough gigantic songs to fill a longer set list. And she will undoubtedly hit all the highlights from her award-winning albums. "Jesus, Take the Wheel," "Before He Cheats," "Don't Forget to Remember Me" and "Last Name" are must-haves for Underwood fans. But Fairchild said the unexpected covers really showcase Underwood's power vocals.
"She's a rocker at heart, and it's just cool to see what influenced her. So she rocks it out at the end with a Guns N' Roses cover," Fairchild says. A stunning version of Randy Travis' "I Told You So" will also show fans that Underwood can do traditional as well as hard rock.
As a performer, Underwood has come a long way since "Idol." Fairchild calls her stage presence commanding, and the entire show dramatic. She predicts that the young fans will adore the costume changes.
"I just can't imagine a girl coming to this show and not falling in love with Underwood," she says.
Little Big Town will open the show with crowd favorites from their first two albums.
"We pack that 45-minutes about as full as you can pack 45 minutes, with stuff like 'Boondocks' and 'Bring It on Home,' " Fairchild says. But she expects a new one—a raucous little southern number called "Good Lord Willin' "—to go over big.
Carrie Underwood, with Little Big Town
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Sears Centre, 5333 Prairie Stone Pkwy., Hoffman Estates
Price: $35-$140; 847-649-2270
Traffic note: Getting to Hoffman Estates from the east or the south on a Friday night, with rush hour traffic on I-90, takes time. And the Sears Centre has seating for about 12,000 but parking spots for only about 3,000. So if you arrive late, expect to deal with overflow parking and shuttle buses.