Thursday, February 14, 2008
Seeing Keith Urban last night at the Garden was a jolt to the system. It reminded me that rock is not dead; that there are still arena-filling musicians who are in it for the music and are appreciative for their audience, their band and crew. He could have played it safe, but didn’t and that’s what made it great performance.
He opened with Once In A Lifetime, which happens to be my favorite of his. That of course made me think ok, is it over for me? It actually signaled to tighten the seat belt, I’m in for a ride. He came out like gangbusters and never let up. He had sweat pouring down his face by song two.
Phil Spector has his wall of sound, Keith has a wall of guitars, 4 + him to be exact. The configurations were numerous. His band traded off on guitar (acoustic and electric), banjo, mandolin, bass and keyboards. Keith, unlike most artists afraid to let their band outshine them, embraced their talent and let them have as much fun as him. Yes, everyone on that stage was having a blast, which infected the audience.
Midway through the set, the band went to the base of the runway that dissected the floor of the Garden and did an acoustic set which was anchored with You’ll Think of Me. Musicians in the round, showing off their stuff in a more intimate way always struck me as country music getting it right. This part of the show came as close to bringing a little bit of Nashville to NYC and bringing the audience closer to the band. Speaking of bringing the audience closer, at one point, Keith made his way from the stage into the audience about 10 seats to my left. With a roadie holding the mic stand above his head, Keith played and sang being devoured by the fans.
A colossal HD screen behind the band was a bit unnerving. It was a little like King Kong devouring the city. The band was just TOO big. HD made it seem even more real. Note: See my iPhone photos above to get an idea of what it was like.
The most endearing touch of the night was his appreciation of not only the fans (he stayed after his band left stage to low five the crowd, hitting every corner of the venue to show his thanks), but his crew also. He gave them a big shout out while the HD screen was filled with a photo of them. No one has any idea what goes into putting on a show like that, unless you’ve actually done it. Those people are usually the unsung heroes, but not last night. Whoever was handling microphone duty deserves a big applause. They were popping up all over the stage and its many arms.
Strong guitar solos, sing-a-longs and just plain rock and roll made last night a music renewal.
With Keith’s show being so strong, it still leaves me scratching my head the Carrie Underwood was the chosen opener. It was like two different shows: The Vegas Review and the Arena Rock Show. Carrie has a nice voice, looks great (please take off those 5” heels so you can move and enjoy yourself), but lacks the soul to make her performance more than the safe show it was. She has not left American Idol behind her.
There were two stagings that unfortunately are embedded in my head for their inconceivability. One she is wearing what looks like a blue wedding dress gone awry with a very long train. (see bad photo above) Perched on two round tiers, she looked the blueberry bride on a wedding cake. I can only guess that with so much fabric surrounding her, she was immobile. She stayed that way for two songs. After she changed into a more appropriate jeans and tank top, she was atop the circles again. This time the lights lay low, so low she was only visible to about the first 10 rows. Attached to the lights were very big white sheets, which were affixed to the waist of her jeans. The only way to describe this is it looked like she had huge rolls of toilet paper rising from the air, as the lights lifted and they were attached to her pants! These elements were so distracting that I couldn’t even tell you what she was singing about. The sound was not the best. She closed with the very likable hit, Before He Cheats, which reminds me of Aerosmith. Recipe for Carrie: Be yourself. Wear Jeans. Take it down a notch. Have fun. Watch a Keith Urban show. Take notes.