Keith Urban's Get Closer 2011 world tour could easily be renamed "If Keith Urban Were Any Closer, He'd Carpool With You 2011 World Tour." It probably wouldn't leave much extra space on concert T-shirts though -- so for brevity's sake -- Get Closer it is.
And mission accomplished.
"We're playing at home tonight," the Aussie enthusiastically told the jam-packed crowd Saturday night (Aug. 6) at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.
To kick off the evening, opening act Jake Owen took the stage promptly at 7:30 p.m. for his very first performance at the venue. The Florida native sang a nine-song set which included his introspective hit, "Startin' With Me," his rowdy "Eight Second Ride" and his latest release, "Barefoot Blue Jean Night."
"This is the Get Closer tour," Owen explained. "You guys are supposed to get close to us, and it's all about the love."
On that note, after seeing a couple in the crowd holding a sign touting their 23rd wedding anniversary, he invited them onstage to slow dance while he sang his romantic ballad, "Don't Think I Can't Love You."
Following an intermission to move stage equipment, the lights went down and the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" blasted through the speakers. After the closing lines, "I'd love to turn you on," Urban made his entrance and kicked off his set with "Put You in a Song."
"This is the concert -- if you want to sing and dance and scream and completely annoy the person beside you -- this is the one," Urban explained with a laugh.
No matter if fans had front row seats or were up in the rafters, they had a clear view of the entertainer as a huge circular screen behind the band featured his every move.
"We've got a new stage, and the idea was to do away with all the stupid fences that stand between us and you guys," he said. "So there really is no 'me' and 'you.' There's just 'us' tonight."
Unlike most stages that are surrounded by security barriers, Urban opted for ramps leading down to the main floor. The setup gave the feeling of heightened accessibility, and throughout the night, he ran down the ramps among the fans and climbed up on a platform in the middle of the audience to belt out another song.
The platforms were located on the left and right side of the arena, along with a cylindrical stage in the very middle of the venue which would do complete 360-degree turns and rise up to give the audience even more visibility of Urban.
And then there were the posters.
"It's like the most beautiful picket," Urban told the crowd as he took time to read signs fans proudly held up in his honor.
"Three V.A. girls? Forty-seven shows? Twenty-four cities?" he asked after spotting one. "You guys have been to more shows than I have."
"'A picture with me would be priceless,'" he read from another.
"Well, come on up," he urged, as three fans ran onstage for a photo op.
"I'm on your bucket list?" he inquired after spotting another in the crowd. "Thank you."
During his nearly two and a-half hour performance, Urban sang fan favorites including "Stupid Boy," "Rainin' on Sunday," "I Told You So," "Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me," and "Somebody Like You," along with new tracks from his Get Closer album, including "Long Hot Summer" and "Georgia Woods."
Near the end of the concert, he revealed Nicole Kidman and daughter Sunday Rose were in attendance.
"I'm very happy about the fact that my wife is here tonight," Urban stated to roaring cheers as he then dedicated "Without You" to his eldest daughter.
Fans had yet another opportunity to get close to Urban as the show progressed. While singing "Kiss a Girl," he invited three concert-goers onstage for a sing-off. Based on crowd response, he let the best performer share his mic as they sang the chorus together.
Staying true to his music video for "You Look Good in My Shirt," he made his way to the very back of the arena, stood on a platform surrounded by fans, autographed his guitar and gave it to one very awestruck woman who held it up for all to see.
For the encore, Urban invited Owen back out to help sing a cover of John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane." Then he returned to solo for a haunting performance of "Tonight I Wanna Cry."
To end the night, Urban humbly expressed his gratitude to all in attendance.
"The last couple of years have been some really hard times for a lot of people," he said prior to closing with "Better Life."
"There's a lot of uncertainty," he continued. "A lot of people have lost jobs. A lot of you guys here tonight are going through some times you've never been through before, and it's not easy to go and see something as simple as any concert you want to go see. Whatever it took for you to make the decision to come and spend your night with us, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It means more to me than you know. Nashville and I love you."