I've never introduced myself here officially but I've been lurking around since about 2005. It took me a few years but I finally got around to creating a profile. Since that time I've only posted sporadically but never doubt that I'm a Carrie die-hard! I've loved her from her first audition and have followed her career with great enthusiasm ever since. Because I make my living traveling around the country I've had the great luck to see her live many times. In fact, the final leg of the Blown Away tour marked my 20th show. You'd think her management would send me a free t-shirt or something. They're probably just working on a restraining order.
I've made a few friends on Carrie Fans but not too many of you know me since I don't participate with regularity. Those who do know me know that I'm professional opera singer and as such, obviously, singing is my whole world. Carrie is, and has been for some time, my favorite pop singer (don't take offense to that, country fans, we classify anyone who is not classical as pop). All classical singers work on training their ear every bit as much as their instrument -- so listening to other people sing is one of my greatest joys in life. As an aside, Nashville is one of my favorite places to work because it's got some of the greatest dive bar karaoke in the world. Honky-oke is what we jokingly call it. You hear some of the most entertaining singing in some of the most unlikely places...
There is, quite naturally, a lot of commentary on here about Carrie's voice and how it's doing at any given moment. That's something I've had to try very hard to stay away from commenting on (though I have a bit) because it's a slippery slope. As I've gained more and more performance experience my own self and the more my ear attains greater levels of selectivity, the more it becomes almost impossible to just take in a vocal and not judge it. Being hyper-critical may come with the territory but in the end it really just leads to being constantly dissatisfied. I've never heard a perfectly sung song (or aria) and I'm a happier audience member when I don't expect to.
Anyway... that brings me to the point of my thread. Vocalists show us what they're really made of when they sing live. Dealing with the instrumentation, the mix, the acoustics, the dynamics, the reproduction, blah blah blah is what separates the men from the boys. When I'm listening to a live vocal performance I take it in as a whole and my favorites are not necessarily such because they are money in terms of the technique, but because the entirety of the experience moves me.
My YouTube is jam packed with Carrie's work and I thought it would be fun to compile a list of our favorite live performances and talk a little about what makes them so special to us. The list doesn't need to be a certain number -- it could be 2 or 20 -- and it doesn't need to be ranked (but it can be if you want to). But I would like to hear why you like it with as much detail as you'd care to share.
[One thing -- It's not my goal to use this thread a sounding board to criticize Carrie's technique but I will make a few very brief comments on that as it's relevant to my enjoyment of the performance. I'm sorry if my point of view is a little tech heavy -- I'll curtail that as much as possible -- but I suppose we all have our own, very personal, perspective on what we hear. ]
And in no particular order...
1. Two Black Cadillacs
CMT Artists of the Year, 2013
One of my top 5 songs from her catalogue, I'm always thrilled to see it performed live. One of Carrie's challenges is her breath management and here is a fantastic example of the air flowing beautifully. Her tone is rich and heavy (for a soprano, that is) and has a lot fill -- I love how easy it all was this day. I think Carrie is at her best when she's not competing with bombastic instrumentation. Backed by a stripped band, she was able to let her vocals relax more than usual; the ease with which she sang was incredible.
I also particularly loved the fierceness of the performance. We don't often get to see her stomp it out in that sort of a setting -- girl was on fire! Styling wise, she looked amazing. Loved the black suit, the hair and the make-up. Fabulous.
2. Make the World Go Away
If memory serves this is the first time we got to see Carrie and Brad sing together. Like all sopranos, Carrie's bottom end is the weakest part of her voice in terms of dynamics. But backed only with Brad's guitar she was able to sing so softly and delicately -- barely above a whisper -- and we got to hear every note. The dynamics on display were mesmerizing. She broke my heart with this piece -- the cry in her voice rivaled Tammy Wynette's. Carrie's performance combined with the emotional weight of Eddie's tribute was magic.
3. Blown Away/Two Black Cadillacs
This arrangement knocked me out! Blown Away, while a phenomenal song, has always left me a bit unsatisfied because I find the studio version too layered. It also doesn't play to Carrie's vocal strengths -- it asks her to sing straight tones on the bridges and pulls her vocals below her natural dynamic range where she looses her breath and gets flat. This version was a 180 degree vacation. She bumped the bridge up an octave, scrapped the straight tones, slowed the tempo and let her vibrato just soar open throated and powerful. Oh, and the registration shift? Magic. I can't think of a pop singer who could do it as well. This whole performance had me doing a slow clap on my couch!
4. So Small
CMA Songwriters Series
Technically impressive, yes, but the heart in this performance goes beyond that. There was a beauty to this piece that makes you just sit quietly and stare. I loved the look on her face while she sang. She imbued So Small with an emotional depth I'd not seen before. The additional runs that she added to the song were incredibly difficult given their placement and left me transfixed. Carrie's full chest range has always been something that separates her from her peers and the choruses on So Small would be impossible for any other pop singer I can think of.
5. How Great Thou Art
ACM's Girls Night Out
A Carrie classic at this point. There were a few moments here and there where she had to breathe more than she should've and there was a noticeable sharpening of her tones due to her throat closing up (damn if your larynx doesn't feel like a locked vice when that cry comes on), it was nevertheless transcendent! One of those pieces where you don't even notice the ebb and flow of technique because it just. doesn't. matter. The beauty of this performance was in the flaws! I don't think there's been another song she's performed with as much passion, heart and sheer will as she did this one. You can palpably feel what this hymn meant to her. Just like the live audience, I was in tears when it was over.
6. I Told You So
American Idol w/ Randy Travis
This performance was like hot, slippery butter. Fluid, controlled, sumptuous. I doubt the AI audience really understood what they were hearing because they were probably unimpressed by this more traditionally country song. In terms of softer singing sans the to-the-rafters belting, this is her finest live vocal to date. It simply doesn't get any better.
The performance aspect was also a showstopper -- although one of graceful subtlety. Watching Randy watch Carrie and Carrie look over at Randy was so chemistry-filled I didn't want it to end.
2007 (?) Fan Club Party
It's all in the chest, as they say, and Carrie proved that hers had no peer. One of the things I've always particularly loved about Carrie's voice is the color of her tone. It's sharp and piercing, like a bell being struck. The sort of open-throated range she achieved on this piece gave me goosebumps up and down my whole body. And just when you thought she could go no higher, she bumped the last belted notes 2 full steps over the original. Ann Wilson, even in her heyday, could not have done better.
8. Sweet Child O' Mine
Carrie's first tour, 2006 (toss up between Fort Wayne and Paso Robles)
This was the first time I realized just how agile, powerful and resonant Carrie's upper register really was. It was also the beginning of my love affair with Carrie and her hair metal covers (Paradise City, November Rain, Kickstart My Heart, I Remember You, Home Sweet Home, Patience and all the others I'm probably forgetting). In 2006 she didn't have the stage presence she would later develop nor did her tours have the slick production they too would later see but she always had that voice. Good God Almighty, what a voice. She should have been born 20 years earlier and would have gone toe to toe with the other legendary women of rock n roll -- Pat Benatar, Ann Wilson, Joan Jett, Chrissy Hind, Lita Ford, Debbie Harry.... yup, Carrie Underwood. Wail it out, sister.
9. Temporary Home
I love this performance for it's aesthetic beauty and atmospheric mood even more than for the vocal itself -- though that was utterly sublime. Backed only by a piano and a trio of strings and set on stage that looked more at home at the opera than the country music awards, Carrie looked and sounded heavenly. Much like How Great Thou Art, her emotions threatened to overwhelm her but just like that performance, that's where the art in the piece was found. When a break came before the final stanza and the audience filled the silence with rousing support for Carrie, well... I hardly have words. The quietest moments of the vocal were the most compelling and when the confetti began to fall against the lighting, she finally lost her battle and succumbed. Perfection.
10. The National Anthem
2011 Country Radio Seminar
Let me just start by saying that I'm a charter member of the Just Sing the National Anthem the Way it Was Written club. I like my version straight, without instrumentation and without embellishment. Runs and crap all over it make my skin crawl. As the Go Fug Yourself girls once said, "It's not a single on your album, fools!". I don't like anyone's National Anthem as much as I like Carrie's (for all the reasons outlined) but this version was really special. It was intimate and private. It wasn't for commercial reproduction. Carrie just walked out, barefoot as I can tell, and sang. She didn't change a note and she didn't miss any either. Yes, including the high C in full voice (please, no falsettos).
It was also clear she was holding back given the smallness of the venue (how considerate of her not to try and lay waste to any and all assembled ear drums). It was traditional and respectful. It might not be a single on her record but I've listened to it so often it might as well be.
Since this whopper of a post is already Tolstoy long, I'll wrap up my list without comment.
I Know You Won't
2009 People's Choice Awards
2012 Loose Women TV Show, Great Britain
Just a Dream
All American Girl
2009 Hollywood Studios' American Idol Experience
2010 Brooks and Dunn Last Rodeo TV Special
Okay, CF'ers, your turn!
Last edited by Jae; 06-11-2013 at 10:59 PM.
What a wonderful post! Thank you!
and i'll be reading it a few more times to get the full meaning!
No one else has a list of live performances that they love and want to talk about? I'm surprised this topic didn't get much traction.
Thank you so much!Nice info!
I love Carrie's live concert performance of "Blown Away". Her voice, the music, the stage production...absolutely magnificent.
BTW, you are certainly very knowledgeable and describe yourself so well. I can't allow myself the luxury of time to fully describe my thoughts. I read most of yours and will return to continue. Thanks for posting.
Since you asked for our own choices, here are my favorite live performances. They're not in any order, with the exception of #1.
1. "How Great Thou Art."
What is there to say? Carrie's crown jewel of performances. This is probably one of the best performances I've ever seen. Just gorgeous. This performance deserves the millions of views it has on Youtube, and it is just one of many performances that proves why Carrie is a superstar. When I'm stressed out or angry or sad, I usually put this on and just listen; it's so soothing.
2. "Desperado" (Grammy 2007)
I consider this to be one of Carrie's most underrated performances ever. I love the falsetto, and the tender, but controlled vocal performance. Carrie proves again she can sing anything and sound right at home.
3. "Don't Forget To Remember Me (AI Finale 2007)
I'm not sure why, but I've always loved this performance. She's kinda got that signature cry in her voice, and I love the way she sings the chorus. Tender, beautiful, and powerful.
4. "Walk This Way" (ACM 2010)
What is there to say about this performance? Perfection. I've said it before, but I truly think Carrie becomes an entirely different kind of entertainer when she sings rock, and I absolutely love it. She was absolutely in her element here, and it looked like she'd been waiting to do that all her life. Insane energy and vocals, and above all, Carrie owned that stage maybe even more so than Mr. Steven Tyler himself. LOL.
5. "Just A Dream (CMA 2008)
This has always been a favorite performances. I love the vocals, and especially when she got emotional at the end. Like Brad said afterwards, THAT is what country music is about.
6. Before He Cheats (Grammy 2008)
Love this song live, but the little runs at the end were awesome. Loved the outfit and attitude, too. Fierce.
7. Neon Moon (Brooks And Dunn tribute 2010)
Carrie's voice was a natural fit for this song. I love the cry in her voice, and the ease with which she sings it. She sounds so comfortable, like she's just singing in her living room with a bunch of friends.
8. Make The World Go Away (2008 ACM)
Paisleywood is the best pairing in country music, enough said.
9. Blown Away (2012 Billboard Awards)
Such a powerful vocal, and you could tell she mesmerized the audience. Loved it.
10. Fix You (VH1 Unplugged)
I can't stand the original version of this song, but Carrie's version blew me away. Beautiful, understated vocal performance. She sounds so angelic and emotional here, and she gave me an appreciation for this song.
11. Sweet Child O' Mine (2006 performance with the acoustic intro)
This has always been a favorite of mine. Flawless vocals, but she gets so into it, especially during the "Where do we go now?" at the end. She's so fearless singing rock, and she lets go onstage.
12. I Know You Won't (2010 People's Choice)
Again, just a perfect vocal performance. I'm still in awe of this everytime I watch it. Her voice is a gift indeed.
13. Patience (Azela Festival, 2006)
I love how Carrie put her own relaxed, acoustic spin on this, but it's not vastly different from anything we've heard before. She sounds like an absolute natural here, like she's singing in her living room.
Paradise City (Detroit 2008)
I was actually at this concert, and this is still one of my favorite Carrie performances. The vocals, the performance, everything was spot on. Plus, this was the last song on the setlist, and she absolutely knocked it outta the park for the finale. A country girl with a rocker soul.
Jesus, Take The Wheel (Walmart Soundcheck 2009)
Such an emotional, technically beautiful performance. What I love about Carrie as a singer is that she always sounds absolutely perfect, no matter if it's acoustic, rocking out, or at a big awards show. She's probably the most consistent vocalist in country right now.
Good Girl (CMA Songwriters Series)
I love the original GG, but it was so cool to hear Carrie's voice shine front and center here. She appeared to be having so much fun, and she seemed so relaxed. Even from watching performances like this, you can tell how much more comfortable she is in front of any size crowd, and her confidence allows her to be even better. I especially loved the part where she let the crowd sing with her; Carrie can command any crowd, and I loved how she seemed to be in such a sassy/playful mood that night.
Sweet Emotion (Providence, Blown Away Tour)
Rocker Carrie blows me away again. This is absolutely effortless, and I love how into it she was.
Paradise City (CMA Fest 2013) W
BY FAR Carrie's best performance of this song from a performance standpoint. I was amazed at how comfortable and natural she seemed up there, and she never let up the energy. Plus, I loved how she kept in little touches like the whistle and the "snake dance." LOL. She's such a fan, and it was GREAT to see her having a ball up there.
"Last Name" (AI finale)
She was so sassy, confident and on fire vocally here. Loved it.
Hey Carrieflattsfan, thanks for your list! And it's a great one, too. I particularly agree with you about Desperado and Fix You. It's funny, I hadn't even thought about them when compiling mine but I'm sure glad you brought them up; I'll have to go YouTube them.
I love all the rock covers you included -- I think we all love us some Carrie Underwood: Hair Metal Cover Band.