Keith Urban Plays It Cool at the Ryman

Headlining at the Famous Venue Is "Mind-Blowing," He Says

If Keith Urban was nervous about his first headlining show at Nashville’s famous Ryman Auditorium on Monday night (March 1), he sure didn’t let on. Dressed casually in a pale blue T-shirt and torn jeans, he communicated with the sold-out crowd mainly through his slick, yet appealing, brand of country music. Unlike many of today’s country stars, Urban came up through the Nashville club scene, where a sold-out show at the Ryman is viewed as the ultimate success. From the stage, he called it “mind-blowing.”

But what is really mind-blowing is that Urban took so long to arrive. An incredibly talented writer, singer and guitarist, he reminded the crowd what a force mainstream country music can be, even when it no longer sounds like Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Tubb or Waylon Jennings. At a time when anybody with success in country music is either headlining the arenas, or supporting those who do, it was also a treat to see Urban holding his own in an intimate setting.

Speaking of intimate, yes, there was quite a bit of screaming, but not of the blood-curdling variety. To his credit, Urban doesn’t play up the sexy thing in concert, which would likely alienate half of his audience. Of course, he does have, shall we say, adoring fans, and one of them had created a Ken-sized doll in his likeness, which left him a bit perplexed. “Thank you, but I think you’ve got too much time on your hands,” he teased.

He also asked everybody how their Christmas was — an odd question in March — but admitted he hadn’t played out for two-and-a-half months. That did not slow him down, however. From “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” to “Somebody Like You,” he maintained an urgency that kept the 18-song set moving quickly, even on the ballads “Your Everything” and “But for the Grace of God.” Even the album tracks “You Look Good in My Shirt” and “Whenever I Run” sounded like potential hits. He’d already earned his standing ovation when the crowd leaped to its feet during the first few notes of his last song, “Somebody Like You.”

Three weeks after the reissue of his previous band’s 1997 self-titled album The Ranch, he brought out former bandmate Jerry Flowers for two songs, “Walkin’ the Country” and “Desiree.” For those who enjoyed The Ranch when it was new, it’s a welcome opportunity to share that music, all these years later. Sometimes, the best things do come to those who wait.

Jennifer Hanson opened with a 30-minute set and lots of overhead-clapping, but it was hard to recognize her at first. There was no introduction, and she has dyed her hair brown. In addition to the Linda Ronstadt-Everly Brothers chestnut “When Will I Be Loved,” she offered a new song, “Dreamin’ a New Dream,” and closed with her first hit, “Beautiful Goodbye.”

SET LIST

Keith Urban

“Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me”
“What About Me”
“Raining on Sunday”
“You Won”
“I Walk the Line” (excerpt)
“But for the Grace of God”
“Walkin’ the Country”
“You Look Good in My Shirt”
“Whenever I Run”
“It’s a Love Thing”
“Your Everything”
“Better Half”
“Desiree”
“Put My Blue Jeans On”
“You’ll Think of Me”
“Where the Blacktop Ends”
“Somebody Like You”
“You’re Not Alone Tonight”

Jennifer Hanson

“Half a Heart Tattoo”
“Just One of Those Days”
“Dreamin’ a New Dream”
“This Far Gone”
“When Will I Be Loved”
“Friday at the Latest”
“Beautiful Goodbye”