If you haven't been to a Carrie Underwood concert before, you've probably caught at least one of her showstopping awards-show performances. You know the ones: Where the Oklahoma native shows off her bombastic vocals with a series of impossibly high, impossibly belted power notes and somehow manages to sound even better than she does on the radio.
What you learn by going to a Carrie Underwood concert -- like the one she impressively mounted Thursday night (Sept. 12) at LA's Staples Center for her Cry Pretty Tour 360 -- is that she manages to string together about two dozen of those showstopping performances, complete with the impossible power notes, all in the span of two hours without losing any of the quality or gravity of her one-off spectacles.
But her vocal prowess wasn't the only highlight of the night. Below, some of the best moments from Underwood's night of them.
Carrie's Voice Isn't Her Only Instrument Likely because she got her start as a peerless vocalist on the fifth season of American Idol, country fans might not think of Underwood as an instrumentalist too. But throughout the night, she showed off a range of musical skills, starting by pulling out her guitar on the 2015 story song "Church Bells." She also sat down at the piano for "See You Again," dedicating the uplifting 2012 track to Steven, the late father of a fan she met backstage before the show. And finally -- and most stunningly -- Underwood pulled a McConaughey and sat down behind some bongos (!) for "End Up With You," a standout cut on the tour's namesake album, 2018's Cry Pretty.
Carrie's Revolving Wardrobe Fans of the country clotheshorse knew to expect some big fashion moments throughout the night, and Underwood delivered with four carefully planned outfit changes. But there was a throughline to all the outfits: They were all sparkly. Whether it was the silver sequin minidress paired with perfectly matching sequined booties that kicked off the night or the gold lamé hot pants she wore with knee-high black boots as her second look or the sequined bodice on her flowy lavender gown, everything shined. "My mantra: More glitter," she shared with a laugh. "Somehow, everything is better with glitter."
A Very Special Guest When Underwood revealed that she was performing her Ludacris-featuring power anthem "The Champion," also from Cry Pretty, fans might have expected the rapper to pop up from one of the many under-the-stage entryways. But instead, Underwood had a different special guest in mind: Kimberly Hodgman, a 23-year-old woman who sent in a video of herself to Carrie's team while in the hospital battling leukemia, came out with her sister to take over Luda's empowering verse. In celebration of Hodgman being declared cancer-free in July, Underwood altered the final lyric of the song from "I am a champion" to "You are a champion," pointing at her brave fan.
Ladies' Night There is a lot of talk about country music being a boys' club these days, which is why Carrie's all-female tour lineup -- her openers are the duo of Maddie & Tae and the trio of Runaway June -- is so refreshing. But there was a time not so long ago when country not only welcomed female artist, but was ruled by them. Carrie brought out her warm-up acts to perform an epic medley of country megahits all by women, including songs by Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood and, of course, ending with Shania Twain's "Man! I Feel Like a Woman." The tour's 360-degree setup was the perfect platform for the septet of ladies to pay respect to their Nashville heroes.
Starting With a Bang Before Carrie hit the stage, the opening acts also paid homage to some country classics, with Runaway June covering Dwight Yoakam's "Fast as You" and Maddie & Tae tackling Diamond Rio's "Meet in the Middle." Maddie & Tae referred to playing Staples Center for the first time as a "bucket-list item," and both groups finished their sets strong: Runaway June wrapped things up with "Buy My Own Drinks," their first Billboard Hot 100 entry and first top 10 Country Airplay hit, while Maddie & Tae went out with their breakthrough hit and only Country Airplay chart-topper "Girl in a Country Song."
Where Does She Get the Stamina? Before Thursday night's show, Billboard had a chance to meet up with Underwood's touring personal trainer, Eve Overland, and take a tour of the mobile gym the ladies use on the road, which includes all the standard workout equipment you'll find in a gym plus a bathroom and shower. Given the singer's CALIA fitness apparel line, it's clear that working out is a big priority for her -- especially when getting back in tour shape after giving birth to her second son, Isaiah, earlier this year. Carrie and Eve do 90 minutes in the gym-on-wheels every morning of a concert, but there are some off-limits exercises: "My girl doesn't like the yoga," she laughs.
Carrie Underwood's set list for Cry Pretty Tour 360 stop at LA's Staples Center
Southbound Cowboy Casanova Good Girl Last Name Backsliding Church Bells Two Black Cadillacs Blown Away Drinking Alone End Up With You Flat on the Floor Wasted Medley of early songs: *Temporary Home *See You Again *I Know You Won't *Just a Dream/Dream On (Aerosmith) Jesus Take the Wheel The Bullet Something in the Water Low Medley of country women (with opening acts Runaway June and Maddie & Tae): *Stand by Your Man (Tammy Wynette) *Walkin' After Midnight (Patsy Cline) *Coal Miners Daughter (Loretta Lynn) *9 to 5 (Dolly Parton) *Rockin' With the Rhythm of the Rain (The Judds) *She's in Love With the Boy (Trisha Yearwood) *Independence Day (Martina McBride) *Wild One (Faith Hill) *Why Haven't I Heard From You (Reba McEntire) *Man! I Feel Like a Woman Undo It The Champion Before He Cheats