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Carrie Underwood causes a splash in Strip residency at Resorts World

Updated December 6, 2021 - 8:07 am

There is a time to stay dry, and a time to get wet. Carrie Underwood performed a cannonball at the Theater at Resorts World on Wednesday night.

Underwood threw open the 5,000 capacity theater with a leap into the deep end. It happened at the end of the performance, which was peppered with several elements hinting strongly to famous Vegas productions. Underwood performed as her stage rotated toward the crowd, reminding us of the signature stage deck from Cirque’s “Ka.”

Her dance team climbed along giant rods protruding from that stage, as Underwood called out, “There must be something in the water!” Oh yeah. On cue, a waterfall cascaded on the superstar, drenching her, as if providing a cold shower to close a fiery performance.

That would be her finale, too. There is NO encore after the headliner is soaked.

The scene brought to mind not only “Ka” (and also, “O,” whenever you just add water), but also Celine Dion’s gorgeous closing number at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. A rain curtain that surrounded Dion, but not a drop of water fell upon the legend.

There is more than one way to summon H20 in these Vegas spectacles.

Underwood, of course, was the first to make a splash at the Theater after Dion cancelled all of her dates at the venue for health concerns. The Theater, a partnership between Resorts World and AEG Presents is her domain, for now, until Katy Perry and Luke Bryan blast in.

Underwood is on the Strip for the long run, with five more shows through Dec. 11. She’s back for four in March, two in April and six just announced in May. Those are onsale 10 a.m. Monday (Pacific time).

Underwood was up for the task of opening this venue, seeming to relish the assignment. She came with several costume changes, employing ample bling and a couple capes in the same fashion Elvis and (especially) Liberace made famous in Las Vegas.

All of these elements line up with Resorts World’s own attention to Vegas lineage. The hotel sports an Elvis display at its main entrance, and also Liberace’s mirrored-plated Baldwin and 1962 Rolls Royce Phantom. That a headliner in the prime of her career can pay homage, artistically, to those days is refreshing to longtime Vegas entertainment fans.

Underwood happens to hold the same position at the Theater Barbra Streisand did when she opened the International, weeks before Elvis premiered there. But Underwood’s was not a performance that broke in the venue. The Theater is in superb condition, in midseason form, to use a sports term. The Theater is beautifully appointed (its very similar to an expanded Colosseum in its design) with clear sight lines and dazzling video at the back of the stage and along the sides.

The farthest seat from the stage is 150 feet, which (in lay terms) is close enough.

The Scéno Plus-specified sound system, with about 200 L-Acoustics speakers, meets the hype. Maybe only the well-trained ear can detect if it is more refined than, say, the Colosseum or Dolby Live. But you feel every note, a full and robust audio experience that doesn’t leave your ears ringing.

Underwood’s is a dance-and-acrobatic production, too. Her backing performers frequently performed acrobatically on lyra hoops, aerial straps, other elements that are, by today’s standards, classic Vegas. Underwood, herself, is in top stage condition. She took on the look of a superhero in her gold-sequined pant suit and black cape. You would have expected her to perform an aerial act herself across the stage.

But at the core this is a music show, and Underwood has that fantastic voice. She establishes a spiritual connection with her fans by blowing through “Jesus Take The Wheel,” “Drinking Alone,” “Last Name” and lyrically, it sometimes seems as if George Jones (or George Thorogood) is inhabiting Underwood’s thought process. “Drinking Alone” has the bar-top exchange, “We should be drinkin’ alone, together. Drownin’ the pain is better.”

And during band intros, Underwood summoned Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” Not just a couple of riffs or a verse, but nearly the entire song. You need a dose of Led Zep in today’s country residency, even during the NFR, just to shake things up. You also need the right band to pull this off, and Underwood’s killed it.

And the country icon has conceived a show-within-a-show with her “Before He Cheats.” This is the anthemic, confessional tribute to retribution through vandalism. This might be the least-ambiguous song ever recorded. Underwood sings, “I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights. I slashed a hole in all four tires.” Following her phrasing, Underwood’s dance team wields prop bats at a Jeep that has been lowered to the stage.

It’s a slam-bang number — Get the license-plate number of that cheater! — that has the crowd wailing approval. The last time we saw a Louisville Slugger on a Vegas stage was when John Fogerty played his famous bat-guitar during “Centerfield.” A totally different vibe.

The Theater will host many more headliners (including another likely to be announced this month). There will be moments to remember, sing-alongs, and swaying arms and smartphones lighting up the venue. But there’s only one chance to open a place like this. And with Underwood, the Theater got it right.

Cool Hang Alert

A Vegas classic-rock cover band that is hitting its stride during the holidays, Original Chaos, is headlining Notoriety Live at Neonopolis at 7 p.m. (doors), 8 p.m. (show) Tuesday. The band is performing the seminal (seminal, I tell you!) Eagles classic “Hotel California” in its entirety. Rock on with column faves Dai Richards, Chris Ciccino, Andrew Diessner, Tim Sorbs, Andrew Weir and Grace C. Elliot. Tickets at notorietylive.com are $25. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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