One only needs to watch the music stations on satellite TV for a few hours to notice a certain interchange-ability between the stars. It may be the continual shrinking of the world through media and technology. It may be that I’ve been around the block a time or two. It may be that the spate of entertainment magazines, TV shows, websites, and documentaries have de-mystified the whole aura that used to surround performers. It may be that it’s much easier to copy someone else’s formula for success than be truly unique.
In a virtual sea of hunky young men in black cowboy hats, skin-tight jeans, t-shirts and boots, it’s virtually impossible to distinguish one guy from another. Worse yet, many of them also sound the same. Older readers will remember the distinctive sound, looks and voice of country singers like George Jones, Vince Gill, Don Williams, Charlie Pride, Jim Reeves, and Willie Nelson. There was no mistaking just who you were seeing or listening to.
That’s why it was thrilling to see Keith Urban live at Rexall Place on the first day of April. He may be a hunky, young man but his voice and stage presence is anything but commonplace.
The sell-out crowd on the Edmonton stop of his Canadian tour was largely young females, yet my sister and I didn’t feel out of place. His set was simple when compared to the likes of Garth Brooks. His music leans more to the rock side of country. He sang non-stop for nearly two hours. He played guitar like a madman. He played keyboard during his encore. He sang several numbers a cappella accompanied only by his own guitar sounds and had the crowd eating out of his hands.
Early on in the evening, he read out the messages on the homemade signs audience members brought. He called two girls onstage for hugs and the highlight of their young lives. He half ran around the perimeter of the hockey boards playing guitar, singing, touching and being touched by his adoring public. Without prompting, the Rexall crowd was rocking — singing along, clapping, dancing, and loving every minute of this man’s show. A surprise appearance by the lead singer of Nickleback drove the crowd crazy. Who else would have simply faded into the background to play guitar and let a guest do one of his own numbers? There were no costume changes, no intermissions, no stalling. He was engaged with the crowd, appreciative of their support and enthusiasm, and he was just having a great time playing guitar and singing. Nothing contrived, automatic or stilted in his behaviour. Keith Urban has raised the bar for any act hoping to come in here and take our ticket money. Contrast him with Dwight Yokam who played Edmonton a few years ago. He seemed either drunk or stoned or both and mighty inconvenienced to actually have to put in an appearance and give people what they paid for.
When Keith Urban returns (and he will) you should be there for one of the most talented, genuine, and generous stars. You deserve it, from where I sit.
*Reprinted with permission