Veteran Jackson shows Underwood how it's done
Mark another one up for age over beauty. Carrie Underwood might be one of country's future stars, but she couldn't hold a candle to veteran Alan Jackson, who started his concert on Thursday by giving WE Fest exactly what it wanted, something tall...
Mark another one up for age over beauty.
Carrie Underwood might be one of country's future stars, but she couldn't hold a candle to veteran Alan Jackson, who started his concert on Thursday by giving WE Fest exactly what it wanted, something tall and strong.
That would be his ode to the happy hour, the true-once-an-hour hit he recorded with Jimmy Buffett, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere."
Based on the number of signs proclaiming the song's title posted in the campgrounds at Soo Pass Ranch, there would have been a riot if he didn't play it.
So, of course, seasoned performer he is, Jackson strides right out and opens with it.
It underscored the major difference between Jackson and Underwood. She's got the skills, but he's got the whole package.
It helps, no doubt, to have 31 No. 1 hits. Through his first eight tunes, the portion of his show finished before press time, he rattled off nothing but legitimate hits, including "Don't Rock the Jukebox," "Gone Country," "Itty Bitty" and "Livin' on Love." The crowd was electric.
Underwood had her fans, too, as numerous text messages flashed on the giant video monitors before her concert demonstrated. (My personal favorite of those being: i dont live in tennessee but your the only ten i see," though that had nothing on the eight dudes who painted I-heart-C-A-R-R-I-E on their bare chests.)
Underwood, the 24-year-old who dominated the "American Idol" field in 2005 before snagging the title, gave WE Festers some reasons to be so sweet in her first appearance at the festival.
Her 75-minute, 16-song set was marked by many high points, especially in a five-song stretch near the end of the show that ended with the crossover smash that was the single off her first album, "Jesus, Take the Wheel." That one drove dozens of hands in the air in ecstasy and was the set's emotional apex.
A few minutes before, the two-song combo of Guns N' Roses cover "Sweet Child o' Mine" and her own jacked-up-and-jilted anthem "Before He Cheats" sent the sitters in the box seats to dance in the aisles. That was good stuff.
Yes, it is clear Underwood has the necessary wattage in terms of pipes and prettiness to join a long string of pop-influenced country divas. Think Martina McBride, Shania Twain, Faith Hill. She can get to that level, and maybe she will be soon.
But Jesus has not driven her there yet. The first half of the show was uneven, sometimes sizzling but often slow. A handful of ballads failed to ensnare the crowd until the wailing choruses, leaving the crowd to chat among themselves about the hotness of the woman named by PETA as "World's Sexiest Vegetarian" or head to the bar.
This is partially because she's not exactly an old pro at working the crowd, sticking to karaoke-level moves like the above the head let's-start-clapping hand slap. Rare is the entertainer this young who can stun a crowd with stand-and-deliver, especially when the crowd in question is more than 40,000 strong.
Also, she's only got one CD out. That's not really much material from which to draw. Maybe that's why there was no encore. She doesn't have the luxury Jackson has, a literal well of hits to mine.
The complaints aren't meant to be a kick in the shins. The young diva showed some promise on the weak points. Though it certainly could have been pre-planned, Underwood was spot-on when she introduced a rip-roaring cover of Skid Row's "I Remember You" by saying: "I'm getting a vibe from the guys that you want to get rowdy." Well, yeah. It's WE Fest. That's always the vibe. Heck, it's the smell, too.
And one of the benefits of winning "Idol" and then selling 6 million CDs is you've got enough cache to put together a crack band. Underwood's fiddler, Ashley Clark, was phenomenal, even threatening to steal her thunder on two of her early numbers.
All in all? Hey, she's young. Give her time to let her show catch up with her voice, beauty and fame.