GRAND PRAIRIE -- A decade in the music business toughens one's hide considerably.
It has been 10 years since Fort Worth-born Kelly Clarkson was crowned the inaugural American Idol and embarked on a multiplatinum career.
Friday night, at a sold-out Verizon Theatre, for her first North Texas performance in five years, Clarkson repeatedly demonstrated just how she has endured and thrived as one of pop music's precious few superstars.
She has done so by ignoring the critics and detractors -- who were given brief voice in vicious headlines (barbs like "fat" and "music stale") illuminating a scrim during the opening number Dark Side -- and forging her own path.
However, she's in danger of falling into a rut with all those wounded-heart anthems.
But it's hard to argue with her electrifying presence. That's why fans were holding signs, straining for snapshots and singing along -- loudly -- to nearly every song of her 90-minute set.
Clarkson, who will turn 30 in April, was ebullient to be near her hometown, and that energy was corralled into an evening that pulled liberally from all five of her studio albums, including last year's Stronger.
However, the best moments were rooted not in Texas soil, but in Nashville's.
After an arresting take on fellow Idol alum Carrie Underwood's I Know You Won't, Clarkson rendered her award-winning duet with country star Jason Aldean, Don't You Wanna Stay, in subtle, smoky fashion (Aldean "participated" via pre-recorded video).
They stood out from everything else Clarkson sang Friday, save perhaps a string of ballads (such as Because of You) near the evening's end, because the conviction was palpable.
The combination of her personable nature with songs expressing deep vulnerability gave a jolt of feeling to a show that often felt like a giddy karaoke party in a superstar's living room.
Millions relate to the "girl next door," now a hardened veteran of an industry forever trying to impose its will on easily manipulated young performers. Clarkson has resisted thus far, mostly going her own way and enduring bruises in the process.
But unless she takes a real chance on something fresh, Clarkson's career will instead meet an impasse of her own creation.
Preston Jones is the Star-Telegram's pop music critic.