Thursday 18th August on an incredibly hot day in Charlotte, North Carolina. 12,000 people descended upon the PNC Music Pavilion for a superb night of country music with 3 incredible acts on the bill – Maren Morris, Brett Eldredge and of course, Keith Urban. Having never had the opportunity to see Keith performing in the UK, we couldn’t resist fitting this one into our vacation.
This was certainly a ‘premier league’ concert. The amphitheatre is huge; it will play host to the likes of Darius Rucker, Florida Georgia Line, Zac Brown Band and Luke Bryan in the coming weeks. Luckily, we had the wonderful opportunity to interview Maren and Brett before the show, and we were taken aback by the sheer scale of the whole project. SEVEN tour buses for Keith Urban and his team, two for Brett and one for Maren. Between each performance, what seemed like masses of people ran onto the stage and within five minutes, we were ready to go with the next act with a totally transformed stage. It really is a slick operation.
Maren Morris kicked off the evening at around 7.15pm. A rather short 30-minute set from Maren but that was enough to showcase the immense talent that has made her one of the brightest up and coming talents in the genre. She performed much of the new album ‘Hero’, including personal favourites ‘I Could Use A Love Song’ and ‘Once’, as well as her most recent single ‘80s Mercedes’ which is gaining a lot of airplay in the states. And, of course, ‘My Church’ which has become this year’s country anthem. It’s always difficult opening the show to a half-full amphitheatre with people wandering in and out, but the crowd really embraced the new material and gave her a very warm welcome. As far as song writing goes, there aren’t too many better than Maren, and she never fails to impress with her powerful vocals. We can’t wait to see her back in the UK next year!
Then, it was time for Mr Eldredge, who came onto the stage with ‘Lose My Mind’ wearing the familiar straight jacket from the music video. Another very accomplished set from one of the best live performers in the business, including much of his most recent album ‘Illinois’ such as ‘Time Well Spent’, ‘Fire’, ‘Shadow’ and his new single ‘Wanna Be That Song’. Brett is at the stage in his career now where parts of his show seem like hit after hit, with the likes of ‘Drunk On Your Love’, ‘Beat Of The Music’ and ‘Don’t Ya’ getting the crowd on their feet from the first note. His performance of ‘Mean To Me’ is also worth a mention – 12,000 phone lights being waved in the air was a stunning sight!
At around 9pm, Keith Urban’s show began with ‘Gone Tomorrow, Here Today’ from his new album ‘Ripcord’. An infectious banjo riff that cranked up the volume of the crowd and had everybody at fever pitch. I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like it in the UK and probably never will. It’s simply crazy in the US. Whether they knew the words or not, the crowd sang along from start to finish!
This wasn’t the only track from the new album. In fact, eight tracks were included. ‘Sun Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘The Fighter’ were surprises, with the duet vocals of Pitbull and Carrie played alongside Keith’s. His new single ‘Blue Ain’t Your Colour’ was a real highlight and will no doubt become a major hit on country radio over the next couple of months. An anthemic live track which has clearly become a fan favourite, and it was a welcome relief from the screaming electric guitars (which I’m not knocking by any means, his talent is undeniable!).
The only real disappointment was the exclusion of a few personal favourites from his back catalogue. ‘Stupid Boy’ was a song I was really hoping to hear but it was left out. So were ‘You’ll Think Of Me’, ‘Sweet Thing’ and ‘Tonight I Wanna Cry’, true classics. But I’m just being picky; Keith has had so many hits over the years that it’s impossible to keep everybody happy, and we can forgive him for trying to plug his new album.
Maren joined him on stage to take Miranda Lambert’s place on ‘We Were Us’ and did a stellar job, and Brett joined him soon after for ‘Somebody Like You’. For this performance, Keith jumped off the stage, ran through the crowd and ended up on a small stage towards the back of the amphitheatre in front of the many thousands on the grass. “Who’s got the best seats now??” said Keith, welcomed by rapturous applause from the adoring fans at the back.
The show went on for around two hours, and I think Keith could have gone on all night! When he returned to the stage for an encore, he said “they’re gonna kick us off at 11 but I’ve got time for at least one more, right?”. He finished with ‘Raise Em Up’, a fitting end to a memorable night. We walked away from the PNC Music Pavilion stunned at the quality we had just witnessed. If they have Keith at C2C next year, which we are absolutely praying for, he will totally bring the house down. Fingers crossed, folks!