GIG REVIEW: Carrie Underwood – ‘Cry Pretty Tour’, SSE Arena Wembley

Well, that’s it for the Cry Pretty UK Tour, and what a way for Carrie Underwood to end it – in front of her adoring London fans at Wembley Arena, a gig she described on stage as a “dream come true”. Admittedly, some of the shows on this ‘arena’ tour weren’t exactly whole arenas, but isn’t it wonderful to have artists of Carrie’s stature wanting to push the boundaries over here and bring their huge stage shows across the pond? It’s certainly a sign of where we’re at when you see 10,000+ going absolutely wild at Wembley.

The Shires have been opening the shows on the UK leg and have been getting rave reviews night after night. When I saw them at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham on their last headlining tour, I said that they just get better and more polished with every tour, and that was the case once again. Wembley is a big milestone for Ben and Crissie, but they took it in their stride like the true professionals they are, putting on a wonderfully entertaining 40-minute show to get the crowd going. ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ is always a massive highlight, and the final song, ‘A Thousand Hallelujahs’ was a special sight, with thousands raising their hands and praising the lord during the chorus! One of the loudest reactions I’ve experienced for a support act – it’s fair to say they smashed it.

Carrie came on stage to her latest single ‘Southbound’, a perfect way to open the show with its party vibe, which got everyone on their feet and dancing. It was such a high-energy start to the show, as she sped through a string of her smash hits like ‘Cowboy Casanova’, ‘Good Girl’, ‘Last Name’ and ‘Church Bells’ without stopping for breath, it seemed! She’s got so many hits to her name now that I suppose she has to limit the chat to avoid breaking any curfews! As per usual, her vocal gymnastics were in full flow; a masterclass in singing from not only one of the best in the genre, but one of the best in the world.

Aside from the big hits and fan favourites, it was great to hear some of the material from her latest album ‘Cry Pretty’. For ‘Drinking Alone’, the stage and backdrop was transformed into a jazz club, which really changed the tone and grabbed attention. Such a moody, atmospheric track that sounded incredible live and gave her another opportunity to exercise those mighty vocal chords. She described that as one of the “cornerstones” that laid the foundations for the record originally, along with the brilliantly groovy ‘End Up With You’, one of the best tracks on the album. That one was simply made for the live show, and it was one of the most memorable moments in the set for me. She also performed ‘The Bullet’, one of her most emotional songs that she said was “a tough one to sing” – goose bumps.

But the big highlight, however, was her medley of old favourites and frequent fan requests. She’s been in the business for 14 years now, and it’s difficult to fit in all of the singles, so she stripped back a few classics for an acoustic medley, which morphed into a stunning full band rendition of ‘Just A Dream’, infused with Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’. The acoustic part consisted of ‘Temporary Home’ (easily one of Carrie’s Top 3 songs), ‘See You Again’ and ‘I Know You Won’t’. A selection of songs that I’m sure many wanted her to perform but weren’t actually expecting her to! That was such a special, spine-tingling part of the set that really showcased Carrie at her incredible best.

Towards the end of her set, “Sassy” Carrie came back out, with performances of ‘Undo It’ and ‘Before He Cheats’. There was also a great moment during ‘The Champion’, where she brought out a fan to do the Ludacris rap, and the fan did an awesome job! That girl can sing!!

“Are you trying to take my job?”

For the encore, she did ‘Cry Pretty’ and of course, ‘Love Wins’, such an empowering, colourful outpouring of joy and love. A fitting end to a simply brilliant night of entertainment from the modern queen of country music. Hopefully this is the first of many UK arena tours for Carrie (or a stop, on the way to where she’s going…. I’ll get my coat); last night was certainly one for the memory books.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan

Set list:

Southbound
Cowboy Casanova
Good Girl
Last Name
Church Bells
Two Black Cadillacs
Blown Away
Drinking Alone
End Up With You
Flat On The Floor
Wasted
Temporary Home // See You Again // I Know You Won’t // Just A Dream
Jesus, Take The Wheel
The Bullet
Something In The Water
Low
Undo It // Freedom
The Champion
Before He Cheats
Cry Pretty
Love Wins