Check Out Keith Urban’s Midnight CRS Concert

Superstar Plays a Late Night Show at the Ryman

When the choice is between sleep and a midnight Keith Urban concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the decision pretty much makes itself.

Thursday night (Feb. 26), attendees from the 2015 Country Radio Seminar and local fans made the obvious choice and sacrificed a few hours of shut-eye for an unforgettable special performance.

Arriving just after the clock struck 12, Urban stepped out on a stage decorated with rugs and a small assortment of instruments, but nothing else. No video screens, no fireballs, just an international superstar and his tools.

The audience, many of whom had started the night hours earlier in the adjacent honky-tonks on Lower Broadway, were free to pick whatever seat they liked and eat as many White Castle sliders as they could handle to compensate for the late hour.

With hair tumbling over his shoulders and tattooed biceps flashing from a fitted black shirt, Urban said his hellos as the crowd erupted with squeals and shouts of “I love you!”

“It’s gonna be like that, huh?” he teased.

Working alone, he started off with “Long Hot Summer” and transitioned into “Someday Baby,” playing his acoustic guitar like a bongo at one point and then slid behind a keyboard for a slowed-down version of “Somewhere in My Car.”

Earlier in the day, Urban had premiered a new song during a CRS luncheon and dueted with Eric Church on their new single, “Raise ‘Em Up,” and now the talented star had a few more surprises.

“Gonna do some crazy stuff,” he said as stagehands hustled to change out his instruments. “I bought this six-string banjo in ’95, 20 years ago now. And I got this drum machine right around the same time.

“I used to do a lot of solo club shows and would use the drum machine and play guitar, but then I got this banjo and found out these two love each other. They’re like long lost friends.”

He pushed a button on the drum machine and a beat jumped out of the speakers.

“Then I met (producer) John Shanks, and he had a beat going that was sort of like this. I pulled out my banjo and he said ‘What the hell are you gonna do with that?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, but I think this works.'”

With the drum machine still playing, he launched into the plucky opening riff of “Somebody Like You.”

After that display of what makes Urban so interesting to so many different people, he picked up his electric guitar and got back to his roots, showing amazing control and masterful stage presence.

With a bass player and drummer added, the energy picked up for “Cop Car” and “Kiss a Girl,” and then Urban decided to bring a little American Idol to CRS.

Playing the host and judge (of course), Urban invited three people to the stage, but everyone was so excited he ended up with five.

Everybody got the shot to sing the chorus to “Kiss a Girl,” and in the end, a young lady from Atlanta was proclaimed the winner.

After a throwback to his first album with “Walk in the Country,” Urban finished up with “Making Memories of Us,” “Tonight I Wanna Cry,” “You Look Good in My Shirt” and “Raise ‘Em Up.”

And even though it was 1:30 a.m., suddenly everyone was ready for another trip to Tootsie’s.

Writer/producer for CMT.com and CMT Edge. He's been to Georgia on a fast train. He wasn't born no yesterday.