Charlotte, North Carolina - Thursday, June 18th
Urban's wide appeal a hit in Charlotte
By Sarah Aarthunsaarthun@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Thursday, Jun. 18, 2009
Keith Urban brought his Escape Together tour to Charlotte on Thursday night and did what he does best – a high-energy concert with wide appeal beyond the country genre.
Opening for Urban at Time Warner Cable Arena was country duo Sugarland, whose hour-long set rivaled the energy of Urban's. Lead singer Jennifer Nettles powered through 15 songs to the packed house, including recent singles “It Happens” and “All I Want to Do” as well as their 2006 hit “Stay,” performed with believable emotion from Nettles.
Many in the audience came just for Sugarland – it was the most full I had seen the arena for an opener -- but if they left before Urban took the stage, they truly missed a great show.
While Sugarland has a distinct country twang (Nettles let her Georgia roots show as she conversed with the audience, calling one woman “Honeypot.”), Urban's brand of country regularly crosses into rock territory thanks to his fast-fingered skills on the electric guitar and his guitar-heavy band. That rock-star style appeals to male fans, while the women swoon for his heartfelt ballads about love.
He provided a mix of both on Thursday, opening with the high energy “Hit the Ground Runnin'” from his latest album “Defying Gravity” and 2004's “Days Go By” before slowing things down with “Stupid Boy.” It was a formula he followed throughout his two-hour set, but he's clearly at his best with his faster-paced rock songs (I found the back-and-forth between slow and up-tempo made the concert drag a bit). Highlights included “Who Wouldn't Want to be Me” and “Somebody Like You” both of which were punctuated by his elaborate stage setup – five huge HD screens that showed every drop of sweat along his brow and a massive light show timed to the music.
Perhaps the biggest thrill for the audience came when Urban ventured into the crowd (twice), popping up on a stage toward the back of the floor (“Who's got the good seats now?” he asked nearby concertgoers who rushed the area for an up-close view) and again in the lower bowl.
He seemed genuinely grateful for his fans, and I think that's what makes his shows so successful – he cares about giving back to them whether it's giving an intimate performance to fans in the cheap seats or acknowledging that disposable income for things like concerts is harder to come by.
Before he ended his two-song encore, he took a moment to give thanks. “I know there are a lot of seriously hard times” right now, he said in a nod to the recession and the budgets many are operating under. “Thank you so much for choosing to come see us tonight.”
His final song: “Better Life.” The chorus: “Someday baby, you and I are gonna be the ones, good luck's gonna shine. Someday baby, you and I are gonna be the ones, so hold on, we're headed for a better life.”