|Carrie Underwood belts out the hits at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night. (Michael Peake, QMI Agency)
TORONTO - On Tuesday night, country-pop star Carrie Underwood was in the stands at the Air Canada Centre cheering on her hockey player husband, Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators, as he scored a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
On Wednesday night, Underwood returned to the ACC but this time some 11,500 fans were cheering her on stage, as she brought her Play On Tour - named after her 2009 album of the same name - for its first visit to the hockey hanger.
Such is the life of one-half of a celebrity couple.
Underwood's show, which made an earlier stop this year at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, remained virtually unchanged although she is definitely a new woman - making that newlywed - having married Fisher in a lavish wedding ceremony this summer in Georgia. (A wedding day picture of the couple was shown on a large video screen to huge cheers as Underwood played the piano and sang Mama's Song.)
But the 27-year-old Oklahoman singer, who won the fourth season of American Idol, made her initial appearance coming out of the floor resting on a burgundy velvet chaise lounge singing Play On's biggest hit, Cowboy Casanova, while decked out in a floor length black leather sequined jacket and pants.
Thankfully, the rest of the night wasn't so relaxed as she performed on a large stage that sported a circular lighting rig, a semi-circular video screen, a levitating and rotating platform, and eight band members including a fiddler, pedal-steel and banjo player.
Vocally, she hit her stride by the fourth song, the ballad, I Know You Won't, from her 2005 debut, Some Hearts, but attempts at musicianship, like playing an electric guitar during Some Hearts, just rang a little false.
Underwood rebounded by the next song, Just A Dream, donning a pink, sequined, long, puffy, skirt that didn't quite match her black leather bustier leftover from the first outfit, as she sat on swing tied to a cheesy looking tree branch which hung overhead.
"It never ceases to amaze me how one little decision to try out for a television show has lead me to all kinds of places," said Underwood while introducing one of her favourite songs, Temporary Home.
By the next tune, the ho-hum Someday When I Stop Loving you, she'd lost the skirt but also some momentum but rebounded yet again with All-American Girl - which she changed to All-Canadian Girl - and strapped on an acoustic guitar.
"Hey Toronto, I changed the words around a little bit on this one," she said to applause.
Also noteworthy were So Small; the fiesty Undo It, Last Name, and Before He Cheats; sentimental fan favourite and her first single, Jesus, Take the Wheel, and What Can I Say, which was performed as a duet with opening act Sons Of Sylvia.
Each and every song showed off Underwood's powerful pipes.
She also donned a futuristic lit-up dress for Change and recreated the Grand Ole Opry for an electronic duet with Randy Travis on I Told You So as he appeared on video screens.
But there really is no way to describe the sight of Underwood on an electric blue truck - with her first name emblazoned in sequins on the back - as it slowly flew over the crowd for her cover of John Denver's Take Me Home Country Road and her own This Time.
To her credit, Underwood joked that in the early stages of putting her show together she told the producers that she was afraid of heights.
"I said, 'Whatever you doing don't put me in a flying truck,'"said the singer who was tethered to her microphone stand so she wouldn't fall off."I don't know what happened."
Neither do I, but the audience seemed to love it.
Ultimately, Underwood - who's now three albums into a career - just needs a little more consistency and better pacing to take the next step to becoming a live performer as strong as her voice clearly is.
I Know You Won't
Just a Dream
Someday When I Stop Loving You
Country Roads Take Me Home
Jesus, Take the Wheel/How Great Thou Art
What Can I Say (with opening act Sons of Sylvia)
I Told You So (with a video of Randy Travis)
Before He Cheats
Songs Like These