Keith Urban woos West London with the refined energy of Nashville
Following his modest current run of gigs in the UK in venues that can hold around 3,000 people, country-rock singer Keith Urban will travel to North America to play 57 dates in arenas that hold seven times as many people. The tour will include a series of nights at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the glitzy venue where Adele was set to perform her abortive string of shows earlier this year.
In other words, Urban is big news in America. Australia too. But he remains best known in Britain as the blonde-haired guy who stands on the red carpet next to his wife Nicole Kidman at award ceremonies. And that’s a shame, because for all his sometimes corny charm, he’s an engaging showman who can hold the audience in the palm of his hand.
It was basically an arena concert packed into a theater. You don’t sell 15 million records, win four Grammys, have 20 number ones on the US country charts, and duet with Taylor Swift not knowing how to perform. And Urban – in ripped, tight black jeans and a black jacket, and surrounded by five hugely accomplished musicians – brought Nashville’s polished energy to west London.
The opening song Days Go By encapsulates the sweet outlaw energy of many Urban songs. “I’m changing lanes and talking on the phone/ I’m driving way too fast/ And the highway is packed with gunners like me,” he sang. To appreciate this music, it was necessary to suspend cynicism and adhere to the fantasy of escape. It wasn’t that hard, to be honest, such was the good will in the room. The cowboy effect was only slightly diluted when Urban shouted “Holly s–t, it looks amazing in here!” in an Aussie accent that was more Lassiters than Las Vegas.
But it’s all part of the Urban shtick. You get the sense he revels in being a brave underdog. The 54-year-old was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia as a teenager before heading to Nashville in 1992. He broke into the closed workshop of the country music scene and in 2000 became the first New Zealand man to reach the Top 10. in the country rankings.