Return to Sons of Sylvia

"Carrie Underwood and Sons of Sylvia live in Moline, IL." – Concert Review

Last Friday Oct 15th, I got the chance to check out Carrie Underwood in concert. I’ve been to two hundreds of concerts in my life, but never have I seen a country act or a pop act. I have a soft spot in my heart for Underwood though, because that was the first season of “American Idol” that I watched, back when the show was good. Carrie Underwood is unbelievably cute with a great voice, yet she’s really not out there selling sex to make it, so I can appreciate that about her.

What brought me to the Carrie Underwood show was Sons of Sylvia. Earlier this year I was given a copy of Sons of Sylvia’s debut album “Revelations” to review (you can check it out here: "Sons of Sylvia's 'Revelation' is like U2 with an Adam Lambert twist." - Album Review). When I put the CD in I was in complete shock over the first four songs. The album as a whole is great, may be the greatest of 2010, but those first four songs are so unbelievably strong.

At the time I didn’t realize that Sons of Sylvia was a country act. They sounded rock n roll to me, maybe even U2ish. When I found out that they were considered a country act and on tour with Carrie Underwood I was shocked. Later when I got a chance to interview front man Ashley Clarke (check it out here: "Sons of Sylvia on tour with Carrie Underwood." – Interview) I came to learn that they’re a little bit country, but a lot rock n roll. Their influences include John Lennon, U2, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin.

I was very excited to see Sons of Sylvia and they did not disappoint. They opened the show with an abbreviated version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock n Roll.” The band had such great stage presence. The musicianship of these three guys is insane. Brother Adam Clark was shredding on the mandolin like Eddie Van Halen shreds on the electric guitar. I didn’t think you could make the mandolin sound like that. Austin Clark played the Dobro. His dobro looked about as heavy metal as you can make a dobro look and he played it that way too.

The Sons of Sylvia set wasn’t a long one. There were multiple highlights for me in the abbreviated set. Of course I mentioned their cover of “Rock n Roll,” the other highlights were “Revelation” and “50 Ways.” “50 Ways” is just such a great live song, think Steven Tyler singing “Walk This Way.” Ashley is an amazing front man. These guys are going to be huge in a year or two. At one point in the set they took a moment and took time to jam on some blue grass which was just eye openly good. I love Sons of Sylvia - look for them soon.

I could have done this in two reviews, but I have a feeling that most of the Carrie Underwood reviews will just merely mention Sons of Sylvia and I thought it would be pretty special to give Sons of Sylvia a lot of attention. I’m not going to lie I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention during the second act, Billy Currington. The arena was packed for him though and the crowd was definitely digging him, but I can’t say that I was. The arena, which was mainly made up of women, seemed to be more into Billy more for his looks than his music.

Eventually we got to Carrie Underwood, whom everybody but two people, were there to see. Like I said I like Carrie Underwood, but I really only like three songs, “Last Name,” Before He Cheats” and the other upbeat one, not sure what it’s called but she says “na na” a lot in it. Visually the show was stunning. She entered by being lifted from underneath the stage wearing a shiny tuxedo sitting on a sofa. She sounded great, but I didn’t recognize a lot of the songs. At one point in the show Carrie disappeared from the stage only to appear a few minutes later on my side, in the back of a pick-up truck, flying through the arena. She flew this truck to the back of the arena, while performing a song, then parked it for another song so the people in the back could see her up close, then flew back to the stage.

Late in the show Underwood said she wanted to bring the Grand Ole Opry with her on tour so a Grand Ole Opry back drop appeared on the screen behind the stage along with Randy Travis (on the screen not in person). Carrie then went on to sing a duet with Randy Travis’ recorded voice, but it was pretty neat. One of my favorite moments in the show was when Underwood went out of her way to talk about how awesome Sons of Sylvia was and that she is sure the band is going to be huge someday. She then brought them out on stage to perform “What Can I Say” with her.

Before busting into “Last Name” Underwood was walking around stage introducing her band when the seams in her dress busted open (on the side), so she stood in place talking while holding her dress together while someone came out to pin the dress back together. One thing I can say for Underwood is that the show was very family friendly. During “Last Name” she had a strapless dress that was kind of short, but compared to every other pop star she may as well have had a sweater with pants on.

The show was a lot of fun. Outside of Sons of Sylvia it wasn’t the most musically moving concert I’d ever seen, but you know what, neither was Kiss when I went and saw them a few years ago. The show is exactly what it should have been, a fun pop show with a lot of cool things that happened. Over all, the packed arena was beyond satisfied with Miss Underwood. Still the highlight for me were the boys in Sons of Sylvia; those guys are amazing.

--Bob Zerull