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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisThere's country, there's pop, and there's good old fashioned rock n' roll, but somehow Keith Urban's managed to not only embrace each of those elements, but authentically incorporate all of them into his repertoire. As a result, he isn't just one of the most popular country performers on the road right now (even if that's his primary genre classification), but also one of the most prominent pop and rock stars, further evidenced by a sold out Chicago area arena appearance.
Touring in support of his seventh studio CD Get Closer (Capitol), the singer/songwriter/guitar player staged what's possibly his grandest spectacle to date, though unlike some stars who use lots of props to distract, the Aussie hunk and his four piece backing band had the chops to carry the show with a single spotlight. Still, the endless stream of lasers and a constantly changing circular screen helped fans from the front row to the upper corners feel involved across over two hours of high octane hits.
It all started with the cowbell bangs of the new "Put You In a Song," a southern-fried classic rocker loaded with infectious hooks and meaty harmonies. Up next was the flavorful, bluegrass-slanted finger picker "Days Go By," which alongside the chugging "I Told You So," focused on his affinity for Nashville's current sounds. Granted, Urban's material is so catchy it almost comes across as clichˇd, but he injects so much energy into each presentation, backed by equally muscular guitar skills, that it's easy to get caught up in the moment.
In fact, fans were frequently brought in on the action, especially during "Kiss a Girl," which featured two girls and one guy seeing who could motivate the crowd most. A b-stage segment also featured rowdy sing-a-longs of "I'm In" and "Jeans On," followed by tons of cell phones waving in the air throughout the organic ballad "You'll Think of Me."
As the night progressed, Urban rolled up his sleeves to display increased rock n' roll aggression, often channeled through unexpectedly fiery covers, from a duet with surprise guest Richard Marx on his hit "Don't Mean Nothing" to John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane." Throw in the original country/rock infusion "You Look Good In My Shirt," and it's easy to understand his cross market appeal that only seems to escalate with each passionate performance.
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