We sent Brad along to Sydney’s ICC Theatre this week for a live review of Keith Urban’s show. Here are his thoughts…
Right off the bat you should know that I am a MASSIVE Keith Urban fan. I have fond memories of blasting ‘Days Go By’ and ‘Long Hot Summer’ in my car. Singing along to every single song of his 2009 album ‘Defying Gravity’ with my first girlfriend. Dancing and standing on top of chairs at his incredible concerts in 2013 and 2014. I truly couldn’t think of any better artist to break in the newly opened ICC Theatre in Darling Harbour than our Keith.
Supported by local talent Buchanan and American country superstar Carrie Underwood, the replacement to the much loved Sydney Entertainment Centre completely took me by surprise.
I felt like I was walking onto the set of a televised American music awards show as the ‘ultramodern theatre’ boasts state-of-the-art facilities, high definition screens and a ‘fan-shaped layout’ which allows unobstructed views no matter where you were amongst the 8,000 seated capacity.
Keith kicked off the final leg of his ‘Ripcord’ World Tour in support of his #1 album released in May with the opening track ‘Gone Tomorrow (Here Today)’. The entire crowd was instantaneously spellbound by his lively presence. Keith gave us all permission to stand and annoy the person next to us and so I did exactly that as he followed it up with my favourite, ‘Long Hot Summer’.
Looking fit as always, the 49 year old superstar is the envy of every guitarist honing their skills, as he seamlessly showed off during ‘Where The Blacktop Ends’ from his 1999 self titled US breakthrough album. Upon looking at all the fan-held signs in the crowd, Keith noticed a girl who had just turned 16 who had flown all the way from Adelaide with her family to be there. He brought her up on stage and gave her a hug. Seeing her mum then freaking out in the audience, he brought her up on stage too. Figured we might as well have the whole family up and next thing you know, the birthday girl’s dad is playing a chord or two on Keiths guitar as the girls scored a selfie. Super cool.
The visuals of the theatre brought the album to life as the screen ‘shattered like glass’ for ‘Break On Me’ and a giant disco ball filled the entire venue in spots of blue as he serenaded with ‘Blue Ain’t Your Colour’. The authentic romantic lyrics that Keith is known for were on display as he performed ‘Ripcord’ album closer ‘Worry ‘Bout Nothin’.
An extended intro to ‘You Gonna Fly’ didnt really sit well with me – it’s usually a live favourite of mine, but it was all made up with the entire crowd on their feet imitating the hand motion for the music video of ‘Days Go By’.
The hits just kept coming with an incredible guitar solo for ‘I Told You So’; the theatre then emblazoned in red and blue for the cheeky single ‘Cop Car’ from his 2013 album ‘Fuse’.
‘Sun Don’t Let Me Down’ is a Pitbull-assisted hit-in-waiting. Featuring the lyric “I know you gotta rise for the birds to sing but I need the moonlight to do my thing”, Keith explained its meaning as when you first start dating, it’s going well and it’s 2am, 3am, 4am and you’re pleading with the sun not to rise so the date won’t end. The sexy track is supported by a funky outro – most likely the work of the legendary collaborator Nile Rodgers who has shaped the music industry. Nile has worked with the likes of Madonna, David Bowie, Daft Punk and INXS and I hope to see him collaborate with Keith again on the next album.
Carrie Underwood is an absolute superstar. Just like Keith, she is on top of her game within country music but puts on a great live rock show. Admittedly I didn’t know many of her songs but throughout her special guest appearance, you could see there were fans in the audience who predominantly came to see her.
Supported by a full band of four guitarists, a violinist, drummer, pianist and a backing vocalist, we were treated to an hour long set where she got the crowd singing along as she did a call and response throughout her songs. We were completely charmed by her adorable Southern accent as the ‘American Idol’ winner strummed through her hits ‘Jesus Take The Wheel’, ‘Before He Cheats’ and ‘Blown Away’, in which the crowd cheered after every soaring vocal.
Carrie got a standing ovation after she performed the original version of ‘I Will Always Love You’ – a tribute to her mentor and ‘role model in every way’, Dolly Parton.
It then came as no surprise that Carrie returned towards the end of Keith’s set to perform ‘The Fighter’ – one of the biggest hits released in Australia this year. I was really hoping they would then sing ‘We Were Us’ – a duet originally recorded with Miranda Lambert on ‘Fuse’, but instead they sang the Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty classic ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart’.
As Keith does in all of his concerts, he then walked through to the middle of the venue and played at a B stage to perform ‘You Look Good In My Shirt’ (surely a highlight to all those within a 15 metre radius of him).
He then generously gave away a Gibson guitar to a fan in the audience before launching into ‘Somebody Like You’. Billboard has named it the number one country song of the 2000s and it wasn’t hard to see why; the entire crowd singing along and jumping when instructed to.
He then returned to the main stage as he performed the lead singles from his last two albums; ‘Little Bit Of Everything’ and ‘John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16’. The latter is a lyric-heavy spit of all of life’s inspirations which then hilariously morphed into a cover of the classic ‘Jack & Diane’ by John Cougar Mellencamp. Everyone sang along as he then transitioned into Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’ with the Jamacian colours of red yellow and green filling out the theatre.
Keith then played the final song of the core set; his latest Australian single fondly reminiscing how the best days of our life are all that ‘Wasted Time’. As he returned, he confessed that he calls his wife (Nicole Kidman, didnt you know?) and tells her how the show has gone before launching into the encore. She sent her love to the audience and so he then paid tribute to her with his iconic song, ‘Making Memories Of Us’.
I was transported to another place as he then sang ‘Stupid Boy’… a track I had never been too fond of in the past but then became my favourite from this tour. Keith finished up his incredible set at the ICC with his Eric Church-assisted track ‘Raise ‘Em Up’.
If you’ve never seen Keith Urban before, then put simply you’re missing out. I took my lovely mother this time around and whilst she had never listened to his music much in the past, she is now a converted fan and we’ll be bringing people with us next time around.
Whilst I hope Keith enjoys his downtime in Australia with the family over Christmas, I am really eager for him to get stuck into recording his next album so we can see him absolutely killing it again on tour soon.
Brad went to the ICC with compliments of EMI.
Catch Keith play his last Australian show tonight at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.