Thousands of fans on their feet throughout Carrie Underwood’s opening number, singing along with every word, clapping their hands to the beat; that’s what it looks like when a bona fide star in the prime of her career comes through town.
The sold-out crowd for the country singer’s Friday night show at the Yakima Valley SunDome had started lining up at 2:30 p.m., five hours before the start. Fans waited outside until the doors opened at 6:30, chilled by a steady wind and a rapidly cooling late February evening. But by the time Underwood stepped through a door in the center of the stage and started singing her 2012 No. 1 country hit “Good Girl,” they were in a frenzy, primed by opening-act heartthrob Hunter Hayes.
Underwood, wearing a sparkling purple dress, long in the back but cut to mid-thigh in the front, had them in the palm of her Grammy-winning, platinum-charting hand.
The crowd remained on its feet for her second song, “Undo It,” a No. 1 country hit in 2010, and showed no inclination toward sitting down anytime soon. Among that crowd were men and women, boys and girls of all ages and more families than attend the average pop concert. Family values and Underwood’s clean-cut image were a big part of the draw.
“She’s such a role model, everyone should look up to her,” said 15-year-old Kaylyn Brookman of Yakima. Brookman and 17-year-old friend Kailyn Mendez wore homemade glow-in-the-dark puffy-paint shirts espousing their love of Underwood and opener Hayes.
“I love them both so much,” Mendez said.
Cindy Larson agreed that part of Underwood’s appeal is her family-friendly music and stage show. Larson, a 41-year-old Pasco resident, brought her 18-year-old son, Skyler, and 15-year-old daughter, Nicole.
“I know it’s going to be appropriate for my kids,” Cindy Larson said before the show. “It’s something we can do together.”
But family-friendly appeal aside, they’re all fans of Underwood’s music and have been throughout her career, they said. Underwood first gained fame on “American Idol,” which she won in 2005. She has since recorded four albums, all of which hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts and all of which went platinum. Those efforts earned her six Grammys, including one she picked up earlier this month for last year’s Best Solo Country Performance for “Blown Away,” which also won Best County Song for its writers, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins.
Friday night marked her third Yakima appearance, all at the SunDome. This one, just like those in 2008 and 2010, was a sellout. Two fans who traveled from Post Falls, Idaho, for the show said they tried to get tickets to see Underwood in Spokane, but those sold out too fast. The men, Ray Wilson, 65, and Johnny Five (or at least that’s what he insisted his name is), 55, said the five-hour drive was worth it.
“First of all, she’s incredibly talented,” said Five. “She’s been in the business eight years, she’s got four albums, countless Grammys. And she’s gorgeous. I can tell this is going to be a high-energy tour, high production values.”
Indeed it was, with a choreographed light show and giant video screens both on the stage and off to either side. It was a slick production all around, starting with Hayes’ 40-minute set and increasing in scope when Underwood took the stage. It was designed to appeal to every faction of Underwood’s giant, mainstream-country audience.
“She appeals to a large spectrum,” Five said. “You see little girls to old guys and everything in between.”
• Pat Muir can be reached at 509-577-7693 or firstname.lastname@example.org.