Concert Review: Singing in the rain with Keith Urban

Flashes of lightning and steady rain certainly are not ideal concert conditions, but they did not deter thousands of Keith Urban fans who attended his June 25 show at Davis Park. The country singer/guitarist played nearly two hours despite the inclement weather that plagued the last half of his show. This appearance marked his second Stars and Guitars headlining performance.

The 37-year-old Australian’s show got off to a slow start when he opened with a rather reserved rendition of “Days Go By,” the first single from his latest album, Be Here. He quickly gained momentum, however, on “Raining On Sunday,” a melodic ballad filled with scorching guitar solos. This emotional number highlighted his strengths as a vocalist, guitarist and entertainer. Unlike many performers, Urban excels in each of these categories instead of specializing in one area. Refusing to be bound by commercial standards, he skillfully combines country melodies with extended guitar jams. This approach worked particularly well on his breakthrough hit, “Where The Blacktop Ends.”

Living up to his friendly, down-to-earth reputation, Urban singled out two fans who had traveled from Nova Scotia and invited them to meet him on stage. Despite the great success of his last two albums and being named the Academy of Country Music’s top male vocalist, Urban continually thanked the crowd for coming and staying in the rain, and described the audience’s enthusiastic response as “amazing.”

Urban’s strong backup band also added to the high quality of his performance. Bassist Jerry Flowers was a member of Urban’s former band The Ranch and has toured with a number of country greats. The multitalented Chad Jeffers supplied beautiful dobro, banjo, and mandolin melodies that have long characterized Urban’s distinctive sound. Interestingly, this was Jeffers’ second Stars and Guitars appearance as well. He played in the bluegrass band Pinmonkey as one of Trace Adkin’s opening acts last year.

Acclaimed composer Richard Marx was by far the most impressive musician who joined Urban on stage. The Chicago resident played two songs with Urban including Dave Edmund’s classic “I Hear You Knocking.” Marx co-wrote Urban’s upcoming single “Better Life” and explained the song was written in 20 minutes while they were watching the Super Bowl at his house. His appearance was a welcome surprise and a great addition to Urban’s show.

While he was supported by many gifted musicians, Urban served as an energetic frontman and established a friendly rapport with the fans. At one point, he assured the wet crowd that the concert would not be cut short because of the weather.

“They’re telling us to get off the stage,” Urban said. “We’re telling them to go to hell. We want to keep playing.”

Urban made time to tackle a few impressive covers, including The Eagles’ “Take It To The Limit,” and ironically, Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain.” Urban recently collaborated with CCR’s lead singer John Fogerty on CMT’s Crossroads, a show that pairs country and rock artists together for a performance.

Although a few fans left early because of the weather, those who stayed experienced a great show from one of country’s premier performers. Here’s to bringing Urban back for a third Stars and Guitars appearance.

From the June 29-July 5, 2005, issue

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