I often leave a Country gig feeling inspired. Sometimes it’s the energy of the music, often it’s a lyric that wouldn’t be out of place on a motivational poster, other times it’s just being surrounded by my tribe singing in unison and unfettered revelry. Leaving Carrie Underwood’s London concert – a proper big-hit-belting, arena-worthy show – was no different. Admittedly some of the things I felt inspired to do are probably better than others.
1/ Introduce more sparkle into my everyday wardrobe.
As Carrie walked out onto the Wembley Arena stage for the last night of her UK Cry Pretty tour in a bedazzled leatherette catsuit, I and the girls on either side simultaneously declared “I want a sparkly jumpsuit”. This outfit was presence. This outfit was never apologising for taking up space. This outfit was also bold disregard for the uncharacteristic UK heatwave, as Carrie admitted “I don’t cry pretty and I don’t sweat pretty either”. Aah but those sparkles, like a Xena Warrior Princess version of Barbie, were surely worth any discomfort and no doubt major toilet faff.
2/ Learn to play… anything.
My biggest surprise of the night was Carrie picking up a guitar twice. Her goosebump inducing voice (one of the most powerful in modern country music) means she has nothing to prove, but I get the feeling that after 14 years of performing she just thought ‘might as well give something different ago’. She only strummed a few chords during two songs but it made me think I should probably at least pick up that ukulele I bought on a whim ten years ago. And that harmonica from two years ago. And the harmonica I bought last year because I’d forgotten I’d bought the first one.
3/ Be more “Lois from Watford”.
When Carrie announced that a fan who’d overcome adversity would be coming out to join her, filling in for hip hop artist Ludacris in crossover song The Champion, I was irrationally concerned. When she announced that the participant for the London show was called Lois and was from Watford, I was slightly more rationally concerned. Could Lois rap? Should Lois rap? Was the concert about to take a drastic downturn we’d never recover from. If I’d been Lois from Watford – or indeed me from Walthamstow – I would’ve said “absolutely not” to getting up in front of nearly 10,000 people and possibly making a massive muppet of myself. Luckily Lois did not share my concerns; or if she did she told her inner voice to shut up and hold her beer. This girl came out on stage with swag that Luda himself couldn’t have rivalled, rapped a bit but also saaaaaang that refrain, belting out a pitch perfect big finish while a proud Carrie stood beside her. This was a once in a lifetime experience she didn’t let insecurity rob her of. And the crowd – including cynics like me – went wild.
4/ Be less trusting of men…
…or at least do some research on poison doses and invest in a couple of burner phones just in case. Because if there’s anything to learn from Carrie’s set-list this tour, it’s that one in three relationships end in justifiable murder and/or criminal damage. Between slashing a hole in four of his tyres, teaming up with ‘the other woman’ to kill a slime-ball while still managing to look flawless in your funeral outfit, or poisoning an abuser; I’m borrowing from Harlan Howard to redefine Carrie’s brand of country music as ‘three murders and the truth’. I’m a little worried about how much I enjoy these epic revenge ballads, especially while singing into my cider bottle makeshift microphone along with an arena full of fellow feisty women.
5/ Worry less about gig outfits.
I don’t think I’m overly image conscious – I’m usually scrambling across London to gigs, crammed into a tube after getting stuck in an overlong work meeting, running too late to arrive as Instagram ready as I was when I left home that morning. But, as I stood listening to Carrie, while overheating in my new favourite maxi dress which ‘just happened’ to coordinate with the lining of my handbag, I figured I’m probably a tad more image conscious than the guy stood in front of me in his DHL uniform. The jury’s out on whether he knew he was coming to the concert or just snuck in while delivering a package, but hats off to you DHL man.
6/ Own where you’ve come from.
Carrie was celebrating 14 years since American Idol brought her talents into the limelight and – as some of her band had been with her all that time – they marked it with a “walk through memory lane”, performing a selection of the older songs which don’t make it into her sets these days: See You Again, I Know You Won’t and Just a Dream. She also shared the soft spot she has for her 2006 no.1 Jesus Take the Wheel, reminiscing about hearing the demo and thinking she’d be “the luckiest person to get to sing that song”. Rest assured, she said she’ll always perform it at her shows and she gets extra points for not leaving it hanging until a faux encore.
7/ Never attempt a ‘take a shot for every song where someone’s died’ drinking game at a Carrie concert.
Apart from the aforementioned narrow escape thanks to Jesus taking the wheel as requested, a lot of people meet classic country song style misadventure in her tunes. Your liver would not recover. No such song felt more movingon this 4th of July show than Bullet, a poignant ballad from her latest album performed to a backdrop of footage from veteran cemeteries and memorials.
Despite the macabre tone of resolutions five and seven, I left uplifted and vowing to try for front row if Carrie rolls into town again. But, enough about me; how did you find Carrie’s U.K. tour?