Review contributed by Cassandra Hale
The Melbourne weathers Gods had thrown us into the deep end again, with torrential rains to start the day, I was holding out hope it would stop before my journey into town began. Things were looking promising, until the last five minutes of the walk to Rod Laver Arena when the heavens opened yet again. With nowhere to run it was just a case of suck it up and get wet. With luck on my side I made it to dry ground without getting drowned, others were not so fortunate.
As it happens Margaret Court Arena was hosting WWE that coincided with Keith Urban and as I was waiting for my tickets at the box office I was taken back to my childhood when I would watch WWE and Wrestlemaina. I did second guess myself as the WWE fans streamed past, did I have the right night?? was I in the right place?? Then low and behold a mass of cowboy boots and plaid shirts filed past, and I knew I was OK. I don’t think I have ever seen such a variety of cowboys boots on display in any one place ever before, they were the equivalent of the ‘black t-shirt’ at a heavy metal gig. People watching is never boring, an entertaining way to fill in a few minutes.
Tickets in hand it was on to delve into a night of country music in what I thought would be quite a low-key show and given the older demographic of fans perhaps no need for ear plugs. As it turns out I was terribly mistaken on all levels!
I had no background knowledge of Carrie Underwood, other than her American Idol history, winning the fourth season in 2005, I can now say WOW what a set of pipes this country girl has. Carrie engaged the audience well and they loved every second. The hits flew out, Undo It, Church Bells, Wasted to name just a few. Dirty Laundry was a song I really enjoyed, from the 2015 album Storyteller, the fans loved it too, singing along to every word. With lines like “all the Ajax in the world ain’t gonna clean your dirty laundry’ what’s not to love. A few more hits followed then on to a rousing cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, accompanied by only a guitarist and a stool she did a cracking job of this beautiful song made famous by Whitney Houston. The songs rolled on with a set of about 14 tunes, everyone was dancing and clapping along thoroughly enjoying the performance. The stage was well set up and the big screens showed the people in the back stalls everything they may miss out on. Dueling violin players added to the country-themed night perfectly. Carrie looked amazing, and clearly she is never too far from a gym. She was the perfect opener for Keith Urban and set the tone for what was in store for the night ahead.
I must say during the interval it was a site to behold watching the stage be completely remodeled. In most shows the support act plays in front of the main acts equipment, well, not in this case, the whole stage was completely removed and a new one erected. I have never in all my times attending concerts seen the amount of roadies on the stage as I did last night, I lost count at 20. They worked together in unison to rebuild the stage to suit Keith and his band with ease, it was quite incredible to watch the transformation.
Then it was time for the main man, Rod Laver Arena exploded as Keith Urban took the stage, opening with the terrific hit Long Hot Summer. All of the favourites were there, Worry ‘Bout Nothin’, Cop Car, Days Go By, the list goes on. We have all watched Keith on The Voice and said, wow what a ‘great guy’, I can tell you after seeing last night’s show, is he is so much more than a ‘great guy’!! After the first few songs he tried to read a sign a girl a few rows behind me held up, when he couldn’t quite read it so he invited her down on stage, the sign read to the likes of ‘let me tick this off my bucket list by getting a hug from you’, he happily obliged then invited the girls’ brother down on stage to share the experience, selfies with the crowd behind them followed and some terrific banter that made a story to tell for generations to follow for the young girl from Kilmore and her brother, a night they will never forget.
Carrie returned to the stage for a fantastic duet of the single Fighter off the current album Ripcord. Then they both sang a fabulous rendition of ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, originally sung by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. There was a guitar change for Keith with almost every song, his collection I am sure would be the envy of every budding guitarist around. The band was faultless even changing up the guitars for banjos and a mandolin over the course of the show. The drum machine worked well in addition to the classic drum kit, and added that little bit of electronics where necessary. Keith’s guitars and banjo no matter which one he played seemed to fit to his body as if he was born with it strapped on, (maybe it was? – Editor) always looking so easy and natural, and boy can he shred, his skills were shown off all night, but never cocky, just flawless.
Then to everyone’s amazement, Keith with band in tow made their way through the adoring fans to the back of the venue where Stage B was set up with the basics for a few tunes with the back half of the venue. Keith asked them “how do you like your seats now?’ which was met with a thunderous applause. After a few tracks and a sweat filled towel flying to one very happy lady, it was time for my highlight of the night, Keith mentions how his guitar is feeling very ‘heavy’ and decided to take it off and sign it on the spot, then hands it to a young boy, maybe 12 or 13 years old, the look of shock, surprise and happiness on that boys face will stay with me for a very long time. The most humble of acts from this kind-hearted country singer that will change that young boys life forever. Such a genuine act of kindness from the ‘great guy’!
Then it was back to the main stage and on with the show. Now we have all seen a mirror ball or two in our times of nightclubs and disco’s but to put things into perspective, I have never seen one the size of a small car that was hanging from the roof of the arena last night. The effect was mind simply blowing, showering everyone in the most beautiful fairy lights, such an amazing sight. On with the songs and Little Bit of Everything rang out, followed by John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 with its lyrics of Jack and Diane, No Woman, No Cry and a little bit of So Lonely by the Police thrown in at the end. One of my favourites off the new album Ripcord was next, Wasted Time which I can only say was faultless. I have seen some confetti cannons in my time but when they are front and back of the arena as they were last night it was a showstopper like no other, a spectacular site throwing Rod Laver Arena into a wonderful almost winter like wonderland, once again Keith was remembering about the whole arena not just the fans in the front seats.
We know the end is nigh but no one is ready to go home, hoping for just a little bit more, and we were all rewarded with an encore of two acoustics including Stupid Boy which was pure perfection and the crowd favourite Raise ‘Em Up. The show is over but Keith still finds the time to say a few words to his fans, so gracious to the people who had traveled a long distance, or saved to buy a ticket, his words so genuine you could feel the love for his fans with every word that left his mouth. Keith then went on to shake hands and sign autographs long after his band had left the stage, more than just a rockstar, truly a ‘great guy’.