This really was one of those ‘I was there’ kind of shows. Fresh from his stint covering for Adele in Las Vegas, Keith Urban embarked on his first UK tour in 10 years, kicking off at the O2 Academy in Birmingham. We are so, so lucky here to be able to see such a mega-star in such compact venues; a totally different experience to the big arena shows we’ve seen from Keith. It’s rather surreal when a former CMA Entertainer Of The Year steps out onto a stage like that in your home town.
Right from the off, the warmth of the crowd was something Keith responded to. It’s probably a unique experience for him to be playing in a club-like setting too, and he was clearly buzzing for the occasion. Kicking off with his current radio single “Wild Hearts,” the place erupted – there were some hardcore Keith Urban fans in attendance who’d been waiting for this for what seemed like forever. We must mention the quality of the sound; kudos to Keith’s technicians, who absolutely nailed it with Keith’s phenomenal five-piece backing. It was epic from start to finish.
The set list contained a good mix of old and new, with fan favourites like “Long Hot Summer,” “Days Go By,” and “You Gonna Fly,” alongside some of the more recent material like “Superman,” the gorgeous “God Whispered Your Name” and his brand new track, the R&B-infused “Nightfalls,” which really translates well live. There are just so many hits in his catalogue that you’re inevitably going to be disappointed by some omissions, such is the quality of his repertoire.
Aside from the music, Keith is the consummate professional and an utterly loveable personality, which showed in abundance. A real highlight was when he invited huge fan and regular country follower Paul Sammon onto the stage from the crowd, for a killer (and fitting!) performance of “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me.” You killed it, Paul! That was a man living the dream right there, and Keith was clearly very impressed.
As has become a regular fixture in Keith Urban shows, at one point he made his way to the back of the floor space to a temporary stage for a couple of acoustic numbers. Paying homage to Adele, he gave a beautiful performance of “Easy On Me” before treating us all to the fan favourite “You’ll Think Of Me,” which is quite simply a timeless classic that still sounds as iconic now as it always has. There’s nowhere to hide in that scenario, and it’s where Keith’s raw talent really shines.
As the show came to a close, Keith closed the set with the anthemic smash-hit “Wasted Time,” showering everyone in the stalls in confetti (thoughts are with the Academy staff, who must have loved cleaning that lot up). With the crowd begging for one more, Keith returned for an encore, which was an acoustic rendition of “Stupid Boy,” still one of his finest releases to date.
Without a support act, Keith gave us a whopping 2 hours and 15 minutes that none of us wanted to end. That is what you call value for money. As attendees, I think we all get more out of the show when you can sense how much it means to the artist, and this was certainly the case. It was obvious how much Keith loved it, and it’s so great to have him back in the UK for an extended period. Long may these UK tours continue – this was one for the books.