Carrie Underwood has been battling a cold in recent performances on her “Blown Away” tour, but it didn’t sound that way on Friday at Amway Center. Her voice was a force of nature on the high-energy opener, “Good Girl,” which unfolded against a tornado backdrop on the giant video screen. Out of the storm, the “American Idol” alum emerged on a massive, Oz-worthy stage.
Although her speaking voice was scratchy, Underwood hit the high notes with expressive power in a 105-minute show that augmented her country-pop sound with extravagant effects that would have overshadowed a lesser act.
On one of the gentler songs, kaleidoscopic colors on the video screen embellished the ballad “I Told You So,” but other diversions included trap doors, confetti and giant beach balls.
In the most breathtaking moment, part of the stage literally took flight so Underwood could sing “Get Me Out of This Town“ and a handful of others while airborne in the packed arena.
Underwood admires country icon Reba McEntire and exudes similar charm. Musically, material crosses easily into the pop realm, although favorites such as “Jesus Take the Wheel” are genuinely country.
Opening act Hunter Hayes also started his 40-minute set in dramatic style, performing “Light Me Up” in a sea of spotlights, strobes and evocative lighting available only in the dreams of most supporting acts.
On his own songs, such as vaguely bluesy “Somebody’s Heartbreak,” Hayes played electric guitar like a twangy John Mayer and sang with conviction.
He returned to team with the headliner on “Leave Love Alone,” which segued into Underwood’s cover of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” The latter was a needless gesture that seemed like filler.
On “Remind Me,” Underwood’s duet partner on the studio version, Brad Paisley, appeared in pre-recorded form on the big video screen. Amid all the high-end special effects, Paisley’s video cameo wasn’t even that big a deal.
It undoubtedly paled against the windblown finale. In the show’s signature scene, Underwood was standing in a simulated twister, scraps of confetti swirling as she belted out “Blown Away” like a pop-star Dorothy bound for Oz.
If Underwood can withstand that kind of storm, it’ll take more than a cold to keep her down