I wonder if anyone ever told Keith Urban that he is considered a country artist? Because the show he put on for the sold out crowd in New Orleans was definitely more rock than country & western.
Curious as to how the other side of the music world spends a concert night, I slid into the Smoothie King Center last Saturday night with expectations of reassembled honky tonk neon and lots of cowboy hats. But I guess Garth Brooks bulldozed that poppy field down years ago when he made country a rock & roll business.
Keith Urban and his band – bass player Jerry Flowers, guitar player Danny Rader, keys/guitar player Nathan Barlowe and drummer Seth Rausch – kicked their heels up for almost two hours, spinning tales of girls, cars and heartbreak; all while Urban soloed on his Fender like heavy metal was where he really wanted to be.
But give the New Zealander credit. Releasing his first album in 1991, he made country ballads sexy, topped the charts with hit singles and has been a CMA Entertainer Of The Year – joining the likes of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, George Strait and Willie Nelson who have carried that honor home. He has Grammys, Billboards, CMTs and Teen Choice awards. And he put a ring on actress Nicole Kidman’s finger.
Opening his concert on the ganjo, a hybrid guitar/banjo, for “Gone Tomorrow,” he pulled mainly from his latest record, 2016’s Ripcord: “Wasted Time,” “Gettin’ In The Way,” “Break On Me,” “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” – in which he interspersed a little of John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane” and Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry.” For “The Fighter,” his duet with Carrie Underwood, she sang her parts from a video image on the big screen.
But what makes Urban stand out on the concert scene happened about fourteen songs in, when he left the stage, followed by Flowers and Rausch, skimming the edge of the crowd and hopping onto a small stage behind the soundboard. There, he proceeded to sing to the back of the arena, giving them an up close experience that their cheap seats wouldn’t normally allow. After a few minutes he proclaimed his guitar was getting too heavy so he took it off, signed it and handed it to someone in the crowd. Not a bad souvenir indeed. Opener Brett Eldredge joined him back there for “Somebody Like You,” a #1 song from 2002, but which the crowd still went nuts for.
With plenty of Louisiana references peppered throughout, no one left that night not liking this man. He had fun with them – shaking hands from the stage with anyone who could reach him – he gave them kick up your heels country and sweet-sounding ballads, doused them with tons of confetti and proved a country boy can sometimes rock & roll.