“I don’t even like country music,” said the guy behind me in the beer line. When I pointed out that we were, in fact, at a country music concert, he shook his head and laughed.
“Naw, man! Keith’s my boy! My boy!”
This is Keith Urban in a nutshell: country music for people who don’t like country music. At his ripCORD World Tour stop at USANA Amphitheater, Urban put on a show that seemed to transcend genre.
Photo by Brandon Mizar of Mizar Photography
Urban borrowed beats from R&B, a stage setup befitting a rock star, and the nimble guitar licks of classic rock. “The Phantom,” a techno-inspired mixing board that plays drum loops and samples from other songs in real time, featured prominently into the show. Even Urban’s hair seemed straight out of pop music, billowing beautifully in the wind a ‘la Beyonce and her wind machine (you know you’re a real star when you can out-Beyonce Beyonce).
But at his core, Keith Urban is very much a country artist. This eclectic combination of music meshed nicely for both new tunes from ripCORD (Urban’s 9th studio album) and in revamps of his number-one hits, including “Somebody Like You,” “Stupid Boy,” and “You Look Good in My Shirt.” While shredding on guitars and gango (a guitar-banjo hybrid), Urban’s fingers seemed to glide effortlessly over the strings. An easy smile graced his face from start to finish. This show, it was clear, was fun for the superstar.
And that, perhaps, is the key to Urban’s universal appeal. When the artist is having a blast, so does the audience. Between songs, Urban breezily talked with the crowd, eliciting much shrieking and swooning from the females in the audience. A preteen girl, holding a sign asking for a hug, was invited onto the stage (more shrieking and swooning). Halfway through the show, Urban made his way through the crowd (shrieking and swooning ad infinitum) to take his place on a small stage in the middle of the lawn seats for a three-song set. Despite the 100-degree heat, Urban had plenty of time and energy to spare for the audience. The crowd replied in kind.
“Wow, Utah,” Urban said as he looked at the crowd in amazement after a loud sing-along of “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” “Y’all are singing your asses off tonight.”
The crowd cheers in response made it clear: no matter the genre, Keith Urban is Salt Lake’s boy.