KELSEYVILLE, Calif. — Keith Urban didn’t talk much during his show on Saturday night (Aug. 23) here at the Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, but he did take a few minutes to explain that he had just flown into San Francisco from Sydney, Australia, that very afternoon. He also mentioned that he had a slipped disc in his back. And as everybody knows, he’s got a wife at home with a new baby, which alone is enough to fill up any man’s schedule.
Despite those circumstances, Urban managed to offer an enthusiastic set for those who ventured into Northern California’s wine country for the breezy outdoor concert. He didn’t bring the gigantic video screen he usually employs, so he and his exceptional band relied on cool lighting effects and, of course, all those inescapable hits.
He also sneaked in “Shine,” a song from his Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing album. To my knowledge, it was never a single, but sounded like it could have been. But you can’t argue with the decision of digging up “You Look Good in My Shirt,” an older song he nonetheless released as his latest single, since the crowd went nuts when he started playing it. And at the end of the song, Urban himself hollered out a big ol’ “Yee-haw!”
Urban also makes it a point to emphasize the talent in his band, giving nearly everyone a chance to sing a few lines of well-known songs. Brian Nutter’s banjo riffs on “I Told You So” lend the song some texture in a live setting, and after Chris Rodriguez sang a few soulful lines of “Let’s Get It On,” the people next to me asked each other, “Why isn’t he singing professionally?” (As if touring with Urban is a job left to amateurs.)
It’s also fun for longtime Urban fans to see Jerry Flowers up there, considering that he and Urban have been together since the days of the Ranch, their previous band. Urban reminisced about playing a show in Seattle when that band was just getting started. They drove all the way there from Nashville, did the gig and then drove all the way back.
That’s probably just about as far as the trip undertaken by one lucky and ambitious fan who flew to Kelseyville from New Jersey to get a hug. Urban read the handmade sign (emphasizing her 2,906 miles worth of travel) and invited her up onstage for a quick squeeze … and then another … and then another. She finally stepped down from the stage, although she probably spent the rest of the weekend on cloud nine.
One of the advantages of having so many hits is that you can just roll them out — one after another — without too much chit-chat. The show really hit its stride with “Better Half,” “Making Memories of Us,” “You’ll Think of Me,” “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” and “Somebody Like You.” For the encore, he brought out his digital camera so he could send a message back home to his wife, actress Nicole Kidman. “So she knows what I’ve been doing,” he said with a grin. Then he showed his vulnerable side and played “Tonight I Wanna Cry.”
The doors to the venue opened at 5 p.m., and I pulled in at 4:30, just in time to hear Urban doing his soundcheck. First of all, I was impressed that he still does his own soundcheck and, furthermore, that he sounds just as strong when he’s barely being accompanied and is just playing pieces of the songs. When it comes time to repackage those hits (and it always does when you’ve got a major label record deal), he should consider doing a solo acoustic record.
Sarah Buxton opened the show with a 30-minute set, dividing it just about evenly between talking and singing. The perky singer-songwriter from Nashville opened with “Whipping Post” and closed with “Let Your Love Flow.” For the first few songs, Rodriguez joined her on acoustic guitar, and Nutter came out later for some harmony parts. Buxton has a record deal, herself, but at this point, she’s best known for co-writing Urban’s hit, “Stupid Boy,” which she included in her set. She also told the audience that she’d be sitting on the side of the stage during Urban’s performance. After all, he came halfway around the world for it.