Keith Urban Plays the Antithesis of Arena Shows

When Keith Urban played the House of Blues in New Orleans on Tuesday night (Aug. 26), he didn’t even play the main room. He played a smaller space called the Parish.

He was taking a little time off from his arena tour to handle some American Idol business in Louisiana with fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr.

While he was there, he called WNOE-FM, the country station in New Orleans, and gave away all 350 concert tickets to listeners and his Monkeyville fan clubbers (which has been shortened to The ’Ville, by the way).

And according to the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans, it was a very intimate 75 minutes.

“How intimate was it?” the newspaper story asked. “Even fans at the back of the room could spot the hole in the right shoulder of his stylishly weathered Johnny Cash T-shirt.”

And a source told me that the room was packed but not uncomfortably so.

“There was space to move around toward the back bar. Keith was the sweatiest guy in the place,” he told me.

Urban even managed to do spontaneous things like plucking local high school student and singer Juliet Kalifeh out of the crowd to sing Miranda Lambert’s parts on “We Were Us.”

“You’ve got to keep in mind that if you don’t know the words and do not know how to sing properly, this crowd’s going to kill you,” Urban said.

Kalifeh did well enough that Urban later invited her to be part of the American Idol auditions, where I’m sure he’ll be totally biased about his one-night duet partner.

And he also did a smidge of Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” the sexy song made extra famous after Joe Cocker’s version was featured in the 1986 film 9½ Weeks.

But for the fans who just wanted to see Urban be Urban, there was plenty of that, too. He played 14 songs, from 2001’s “Where the Blacktop Ends” to his current single “Somewhere in My Car.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.