Last Night: Keith Urban at the American Airlines Center

Keith Urban
American Airlines Center
August 28, 2011

Better than: Walking along the boardwalk, sipping sweet tea and holding hands.

It was an evening of warm fuzzies last night at the American Airlines Center.

Keith Urban, on his "Get Closer," tour opened with "Put You in a Song"from his latest album, for which his current tour is named.

And, really, the whole night was set up for a good time: Urban's stage set-up was an interesting one with a lighting apparatus that looks like a roller coaster, wrapping around the stage complete with "cars" (actually various stage lights) running along it and a giant screen inside one loop. Six light operators strapped into chairs high above the stage only added to the amusement park feel and dramatic light show.

Urban wore a black tee and distressed jeans, his tattoos and muscled arms on display. He brought the country boy charm in full force, sporting shaggy cut hair, a scruffy beard, a warm tan, and that characteristic smile famous for its heart melting abilities.

After a few new songs, Urban performed an older hit, "Raining on Sunday," and stopped to greet the crowd and read aloud the signs all through the arena.

"I'm fifteen and this is my seventh concert and I want to help you sing," Urban read. "Well, come on up." She did. "I'm Sarah and this is the best moment of my life," she said, once she made it to the stage.

She asked Urban to say hello to her friend Elizabeth and to pose for a photo and Urban was as gracious as could be. Meanwhile, everyone in the audience cooed. As she took her seat again, Urban urged the crowd to, "Scream and stand and annoy the people behind you. Now's the time."

And for the next two hours that was exactly what the audience did.

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Keith Urban puts on a show. Not the kind with wild sets and multiple costume changes -- not that there's anything wrong with that. Instead, Urban performs with an audience connection that most rock stars would envy. Fans don't love his persona. They love him, likely because he never sings at his audience. He sings for and with them instead with a refreshing authenticity.

As a disco ball filled the arena with silver confetti light and loops of lit bulbs hung down around the stage, Urban grinned and sang and performed a couple of mean guitar solos as well. At one point, he even did a little beat box. He also performed a bit of "Silly Love Songs" as way of introduction to the song "Making Memories of Us."

"That is the most beautiful sight," Urban said mid-song. "That couple up there dancing. Look."

Urban pointed high up into the stands and sure enough there was young couple slow dancing. The entire arena turned to look.

In classic Keith Urban style, he eventually came down into the audience to a small round stage. He performed several songs there, as it turned slowly in circles and then rose up above the crowd.

"Now who has the good seats?" he teased.

Later in the concert, more audience interaction ensued. Urban invited two girls and a guy to come up on stage and sing the chorus of "Kiss a Girl". The guy turned out to be stellar -- even Urban was blown away. And when Urban sang "You Look Good in My Shirt," he stood right in the stands and actually gave his guitar to a girl in the audience who, from the looks of her when he handed it over, is likely still flipping out about it.

The whole show was one of those feel-good nights. Urban and his band (Chris McHugh, Brian Nutter, Jerry Flowers and Danny Radar) all seemed like they were having a good time. The audience was clearly having a blast.

Near the concert's end, Urban sang the obligatory verse of "Deep in the Heart of Texas" and later came out sporting a Mavericks jersey to say congratulations and sing a chorus of "We Are The Champions."

Opening act Jake Owen joined Urban on stage and Urban led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to him. The two of them then sang "Jack and Diane" and Urban thanked everyone for coming.

"There are a lot of people here tonight who went through some really hard times," Urban said. "So, for whatever it took all of you to be here, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. God bless all of you."

He closed with "Better Life" as masses of colorful confetti covered the crowd, followed by equal quantities of red, white and blue streamers.

The entire evening felt like one of those perfect summer nights complete with beach bonfire, sand between your toes and a full moon.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I'm an Urban fan and have seen him perform twice before.

Random Note:
A few rows in front of me, a little boy with a tiny guitar was holding a sign that read, "Just turned five last week. My B-day present is happening right now." On the other side, it said, "I'll let you sign my guitar."

By the Way: In case you're ever tempted to sneak into a seating section not your own on the floor, don't bother. The security guards at the AAC mean business. They chased away one mother-and-son pair so many times it started to look like a comedy routine.

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