Carrie Underwood entertained a sold out crowd at State Farm Arena on Saturday, October 19, 2019, on her Cry Pretty Tour. Maddie & Tae and Runaway June opened the concert. Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com
Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/
Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

‘American Idol’ notes: Carrie Underwood’s Atlanta concert; Kelly Clarkson; Maddie Poppe; Fantasia

Originally posted Sunday, October 20, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Carrie Underwood, from an outward personality standpoint, is sweet, polite and kind. She isn’t especially gabby, edgy or groundbreaking. She doesn’t court controversy. She brings just enough of herself into her songs to make them distinctively hers - but not too much.  

That may not sound like a standard recipe for success in show business. 

But for this season 4 “Idol” winner, it’s gold. She is now considered the top female country artist of the past 15 years. She has hosted the CMA Awards for the past decade and will stand along side Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire (Sorry, Brad Paisley) in three weeks to do it again. She is now promoting her sixth studio album “Cry Pretty” with her sixth national tour, stopping at a sold-out State Farm Arena Sunday night. 

And she left the audience happy and sated. 

» RELATED: Photos from Saturday night’s sold-out show

I’ve now seen her six times in concert, including the “Idol” tour in 2005 and she never disappoints. (Read my music critic colleague Melissa Ruggieri’s take on the concert.)

She makes up for her benign persona with utter professionalism, incredible vocal stamina and power and exceptional production values. When some singers go loud, they screech or go off key or simply sound annoying. Not Carrie. She can go big and her voice just embraces you like warm cup of tea. 

At the same time, she has built a reputation of turning her arena shows into visual spectacles. 

Carrie brought out a gargantuan “in the round” stage shaped like a teardrop that featured nine hydraulic stages, some rising as high as 15 to 20 feet in the air. Huge see-through digital screens draped down from the ceilings. Thousands were spent on dry ice, fireworks and lasers. The sound was impeccable. And she made multiple outfit changes, all tastefully glittery. 

Carrie Underwood entertained a sold out crowd at State Farm Arena on Saturday, October 19, 2019, on her Cry Pretty Tour. Maddie & Tae and Runaway June opened the concert. Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com
Photo: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

Her two-hour set, while lacking in spontaneity, featured a wide array of her hits, including her first No.1  country tune she said she has sung every time she does a tour ( “Jesus Take the Wheel”) and selections from every point in her career. Two of her best early hits “Before he Cheats” and “Wasted” were bolstered by later radio staples such as “Cowboy Casanova,” “Undo It,” “Good Girl,” “Two Black Cadillacs” and “Blown Away.” 

She also included nine cuts from her new album, ending with two of her latest singles during her encore, ending with her perfect Carrie-like mantra “Love Wins.” As my colleague Melissa Ruggieri noted in her review, the highlight was not really country but a jazzy, slinky, sax-infused “Drinking Alone.” 

Carrie paid homage to the past and paid it forward by including two all-female openers (Maddie & Tae and Runaway June). She had them join her for a medley of songs by women who paved her way, from Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn to Dolly Parton, the Judds, Faith Hill and Shania Twain.

And she gave proper due to “American Idol.” She auditioned 15 years ago and has embraced life ever since, with all its ups and downs. Whatever flaws and negative issues that come up in life behind the scenes for Carrie was not revealed and why should it be? This concert was simply an affirmation of Carrie’s power as an entertainer capable of using her God-given gifts for good. 

>>RELATED: Photo gallery from the concert

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Highlights from “The Kelly Clarkson Show” the past week:

Season 2’s Kimberly Caldwell stopped by: 

Cyndi Lauper dueted “True Colors” with her:

And a couple of her Kellyoke performances.

***
The “Idol” judges auditions recently hit D.C. at the Wharf after stops in Savannah and Milwaukee. The last stop is L.A. These cities are now considered arbitrary scenery at best since the producers do dozens of bus auditions across the country and simply fly them in to those cities. They also fish the Web and their own connections to find other potential candidates as well. Very few of the contestants, as we have noticed in recent years, are actually from the cities where the judges stop by. 

The season 18 debut date has not yet been set on ABC. 

***

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 08: Artist Fantasia attends the Laquan Smith front row during New York Fashion Week: The Shows on September 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)
Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows

I tried to get an interview with Fantasia before her latest tour started but she missed one call and then cancelled another. Apparently, rehearsals went long both times. She performed in Atlanta Friday night at the Fox Theatre with Robin Thicke. 

Her album “Sketchbook” came out October 11 and she likes the variety in it.  

“Everything is different,” she told People. “I came from a musical family and a lot of people don’t know that my first cousins are K-Ci and JoJo from Jodeci. They introduced us to great music at a young age. Then I went off to do Idol, we were allowed to do all genres. I was so here for it because that’s how I grew up. So my new thing is being independent and not having anybody standing in the way telling me what I can and cannot do.”

“It’s just a feel good album of all genres with a bop to it, something people have never heard Fantasia do. I don’t want people to stick me in a box.”

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LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 09: American Idol winner Maddie Poppe attends the GBK & STK at The "W" Hotel Pre-Grammy Lounge on February 9, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for GBK Productions)
Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for GBK Productions

I didn’t recall that season 16 winner Maddie Poppe had tried out for “The Voice” four years ago and didn’t have a chair turn from any of the coaches. (I don’t think her audition aired.)

She recalls to the Deseret News that terrible moment: “It was so discouraging, and I thought, ‘Man, if these people don’t like me, then no one will.’”

***

Recently married couple and season 16 contestants Cade Foehner and Gabby Barnett did a video together for Foehner’s single “Baby, Let’s Do This.” 

***

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 28: Adam Lambert of Queen performs onstage during the 2019 Global Citizen Festival: Power The Movement in Central Park on September 28, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen)
Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen

Adam Lambert, in an interview with AP, has been heartened to see more LGBTQ artists find success in the business, citing Atlanta’s Lil Nas X of “Old Town Road” fame.

“I think I can relate to someone like Lil Nas X who waited until a song went to No. 1 to be like, ‘By the way, I’m gay,’” Lambert said. “It proves a point that you can have success, big success. It is possible. Anybody is welcome to have that kind of success. And maybe it’s not about what your sexuality is at the end of the day. Maybe it’s about, ‘Do you like the (expletive) song or not?’”

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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