Carrie Underwood's TODAY Show performance included an intergenerational swarm of denim and rhinestones.

Carrie Underwood’s TODAY Show performance included an intergenerational swarm of denim and rhinestones.

I’ve been waiting for Carrie Underwood all morning, along with hundreds of other fans who arrived at the crack of dawn to witness the country diva take the stage at TODAY’s Citi Concert.

On September 14, I arrive on the TODAY plaza about 6 a.m., and there is already a tiny but formidable throng squeezed together, making a sea of smiles in denim, rhinestones, and cowboy hats impatiently awaiting their queen.

You’d never guess from their exuberance that many had flown in the night before and landed at Rockefeller Plaza around 1 a.m. When I inquired how they were doing, though, I fumbled over my words.

“It’s early, I’m still waking up,” I explain, pleased to hear laughter on the other end that means, “We know that feeling all too well.”

All I needed was Underwood to start singing her popular song “Church Bells,” which she did 10 minutes later as soundcheck started. What do you need an alarm clock for when you have this?

In between songs, Underwood says to the crowd, “Can’t believe you guys are here,” but fans can.

When I ask why they came, twin brothers Brett and Brandon Ilie and their companion Mary Morgan sparkle. The brothers, who live in New York and San Diego, have been admirers of Underwood since she won “American Idol” in 2005, and remember seeing her win when they were only 9 years old.

I can definitely relate. I grew up in the 2000s, like so many other American families, transfixed to the television, wondering who will win the newest season of “American Idol.”

Since then, Underwood’s career has skyrocketed, with the release of her “Denim & Rhinestones (Deluxe Edition)” album on Sept. 22, earning eight Grammys and many other prizes, and becoming the face of “Sunday Night Football.” That’s just scraping the surface.

Before I go on in the crowd, Brett and Mary show me tattoos of Carrie Underwood’s lyrics, one of which reads, “Just a little faith, it’ll all get better,” and the other, “So Small.” I thought to myself, “True Care Bears,” as Underwood admirers call themselves.

Next to them is a group of friends who met at a Carrie Underwood performance in Washington, D.C. Dillon and Tony Parson got engaged after a Carrie Underwood performance in 2018.

“I was watching the show when all of a sudden, he’s on his knee, and I’m like, ‘I’m too dizzy for this,’” she says. ‘What is going on?’” Dillon Parson remembers.

They claim Underwood was “present” at their wedding as well, thanks to her music and a cardboard figure given by the venue.

The two buddy groups rapidly became pals, resulting in a denim-rhinestone conga-like line.

As Underwood exits the stage after finishing her soundcheck at 7 a.m., I devote my attention exclusively to the audience.

I rapidly detect a pattern: mother-daughter duos are all over the place.

Natalie and her 6-year-old daughter, Maya, travelled from Ohio; Paula Derubis and her adolescent daughter, Gabriella, arrived from Canada; and Amanda Woolridge and her mother, Zoraida Bocachica, were part of a large family gathering from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Puerto Rico.

Jana Seiler of Springfield, Massachusetts, says she attended to an Underwood performance with her mother over a decade ago. Her mother has now suffered dementia, but she remembers the performance fondly and thinks it will “forever hold a special place” in her heart.

I start sobbing. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and I saw my mother go through a similar heartache, so I understand the importance of preserving those particular moments. I tell Jana the same thing, and we have our own unique time.

At 8:30 a.m., Underwood steps out again, this time in her performance attire: a light green sparkly dress with tassels that mirror her internal and exterior brilliance.

She sings “Out of That Truck,” “She Don’t Know,” and the legendary “Before He Cheats,” all of which are about sorrow.

In between songs, the TODAY co-hosts observe a little girl called Harper, who is dressed in her Underwood Thursday best — a black cowboy hat, a denim shirt, and brown boots — and holding a sign requesting that the singer come her onto the stage for a hug.

As Underwood leaned in, Harper couldn’t stop smiling, and I thought to myself, “I’m witnessing the next generation of Underwood fans right before my eyes.”

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