Music review: Carrie Underwood at Ravinia

by Alison Bonaguro

Special to the Tribune

Published September 1, 2009


Sometimes, when bad things happen to good singers, the concert takes a turn for the better.

At Carrie Underwood's sold-out show at Ravinia on Sunday night (with another scheduled for Monday), a bit of the planned spontaneity came unglued, which allowed Underwood's voice to come shining through. When the girl chosen to join the country singer for "All-American Girl" had a case of stage fright, Underwood sang it alone after telling her, "It's OK. Seriously, I wouldn't have done it either."

And when Underwood couldn't get the microphone stand to work when she wanted to play guitar on "Don't Forget To Remember Me," she sang it without the guitar, telling the audience, "I don't need to play. I just mess up the pretty stuff they play anyway." It was one of many endearing moments throughout the show that allowed the roughly 18,000 fans to get to know the other side of the always-steady, expertly polished star Underwood has become. And without the extra goings-on, the crowd could hear what they came for: Underwood's flawless pipes. Powerful, tender and hypnotic, it was easy to get lost in her voice.

She sang for more than an hour and a half, packing 18 songs and three different outfits into her set. The eight-member band behind her had all the right parts, but it was the vocals that mattered most. Especially on the tunes that she belted for all of Highland Park to hear, such as "I Know You Won't," "Jesus, Take The Wheel" and "Just a Dream." (Songs that, incidentally, could have cost Underwood some points for oversinging with the judges on "American Idol," where she got her start.)

And at a place like Ravinia, where about 80 percent of the people listening couldn't actually see Underwood down in the pavilion, that voice was even more relevant. From her perspective, though, it had to be somewhat of a tough crowd with the "quiet listening" rule and the classy audience's self-imposed reluctance to stand up and/or dance. By the end, though, security loosened the reins and let fans push to the front to hear Underwood rock her way through Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City" and her own "Before He Cheats."


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