It’s almost as if Keith Urban has been prepping his show for 45 years.
“I started playing guitar when I was six, and I came up playing in the clubs, four hours a night, five hours a night, five nights a week,” Urban said when he came backstage after he’d picked up his entertainer of the year CMA Award.
He talked about those early years with reverence, but without rose-colored glasses. “I was schlepping my gear and doing cover tunes and learning my craft to get to be able to play three or four hours a night,” he said.
And now, all these years and shows later, Urban knows exactly how to find the spirit of the concert, and how not to. “At the end of the day, I’m an artist and we create. The struggle for me in touring is that at some point you can get to a point where you’re recreating. That’s the death of an artist.”
What he does instead, he explained, is find the commonality with the fans. Because that is at the center of his concerts.
“It’s finding that thing we all have in common, and for me right now, it’s never been a more important time. There’s so much diversity and different everything, and that’s cool. But the feeling of inclusiveness and finding all those things we have in common, I think that’s the real center spirit of our concerts.”
As any CMA entertainer of the year will tell you, it’s the care you put into the details of a tour that get you to the top spot. For Urban, that’s how he got there in 2005 with his Alive In ’05 tour, and again in 2018 with his Graffiti U tour.
“When someone walks into an arena, and you come out and you start playing, I want them to know where their money went. I want them to look onstage and say, ’Well that’s where it is right there.’ I go to concerts and I’m like, ’Where’s my money? It’s not up onstage.’ I like the feeling that this person who I’m entrusting to take me away for a couple of hours really gives me something.
“The best concerts I’ve been to, they didn’t impress me. They inspired me. If we can even come close to that, I feel like I’ve done my job.”