Passengers aboard the Carnival Imagination on Tuesday evening (April 4) were in for a very special treat when Carrie Underwood boarded the cruise ship in Catalina Island for an intimate concert. The singer played a nearly two-hour, 21-song set for a sold-out audience in the 900-seat Dynasty Lounge as part of the ongoing Carnival Live concert series.
Underwood’s performance culminated her year-long partnership with Carnival and Operation Homefront where the singer surprised several military families over the past year with meet and greet opportunities, tickets to her concert as well as a private show aboard the Carnival Vista in New York. Each audience member at Tuesday’s concert received a limited edition dog tag which benefits the Honor, Family, Fun initiative in support of Operation Homefront, an organization aimed at assisting military families.
The country singer was at ease in the intimate venue Tuesday night backed by her eight-piece band. Stories about her family’s whereabouts, her childhood hero Dolly Parton and frequently being told by her mother to “keep it down” when singing to her favorite artists as a child were peppered throughout her set as Underwood gave audience members a rare glimpse into her personal life.
“You guys seem like you’re having a great time,” she said two songs into her performance. “Of course you’re having a great time, you’re on vacation! We just ended a lot of travel. We were up in Toronto for a few days and then had the ACMs the night before last so we’re just going to pretend we’ve been on vacation with you all night long. It’s our night to cut loose and have some fun. Feel free to sing and dance and do whatever it is you want to do. There are no rules!”
Underwood segued effortlessly between the upbeat songs like “Good Girl” and “Cowboy Casanova” to poignant ballads including “Heartbeat” and “Jesus Take the Wheel,” a song she said she’ll sing a million more times and it will mean just as much, if not more, to her as the first time she heard it. Prefacing previous No. 1 “Heartbeat,” she dedicated the song to her husband before confessing that she wasn’t quite sure where he was.
“I see a lot of couples in the room. I don’t do too many love songs. When I was writing this one, it felt kind of nice,” she admitted. “I thought my husband could use it because I seem to write a lot of cheating songs and killing songs. He’s probably like, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ This one’s for my husband, wherever he is. Is he at home? Is there a home game tonight?”
After finishing “Heartbeat,” she told the audience that her husband, NHL Nashville Predators player Mike Fisher, had a home game that night.
“I know where my husband is. I feel like we’ve been away from home for a while so it’s nice to sing a little love song and think about him. He’s going to be gone when I get home,” she said as she received a collective “aw” from the audience. “I know! It’s all right. That’s our lives. My son will be there. He’s the one I really wanted to see.”
Underwood’s set included her many famous cheating songs like the crowd sing-along “Before He Cheats” as well as the ethereal “Two Black Cadillacs” and “Dirty Laundry.” Highlights included her swampy rendition of “Choctaw County Affair” where she and a band mate had a dueling harmonica interlude, the sentimental “See You Again” and a striking stripped down cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”
“There’s nothing like when you have somebody on a pedestal and then you meet them and they’re even better than I imagined. We’re going to do one right now by one of my absolute heroes in every way,” Underwood said of Parton.”She really does it all. She is that incredible artist and songwriter. She’s given us so many gifts in musical form. She acts and she’s a huge philanthropist. She does amazing things in the world, Ms. Dolly Parton. We’ll Dolly up and give it our all here.”
The singer closed her set with intensity as she performed hit after hit including “Last Name,” “All-American Girl,” “Smoke Break” and “Before He Cheats.” Walking out after a short break, Underwood admitted that she found encores funny when one fan in attendance yelled out to her, saying he wanted to compliment her ACM Awards dress she wore that Sunday.
“The dress? Why thank you! It was kind of an illusion. It wasn’t really a see-through dress. It was a skin colored material. I wore a shirt under this thing ’cause I thought you could see through it,” she confessed about her sequined gold top before ending her performance with the powerful “Something In the Water.” “We’ve had so much fun. Your fun isn’t over. Have a great vacation. Thank you for allowing us be part of it.”
Underwood’s performance was one of the many entertainment options aboard the Carnival Imagination which left from Long Beach, Calif. and had passengers traveling to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. The four-day cruise includes family friendly activities like movie nights, games and The Cat In the Hat themed breakfasts as well as night life for the adults with comedy, various-themed shows, trivia, a casino, night club and more. Underwood’s show was part of the Carnival Live concert series and follows previous country acts Sam Hunt, Tim McGraw and Little Big Town.