With Melbourne being the final destination of the worldwide Graffiti U tour the fans turned out in droves to see our very own Keith Urban in his last two shows of the tour at Rod Laver Arena. With the tour running since June last year it was an honour to have it finish in Melbourne and we couldn’t wait to see the new songs live. Night one was a packed house, with cowboy boots proudly on display with toes tapping as Julia Michaels took to the stage. Julia played a huge role in writing on Graffiti U together with writing song for the who’s who of the music industry to the likes of Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez. While tonight she enjoyed singing her own songs, we were also treated to a few she had written for other musicians, which made for a 45-minute set that most of the expanding crowd could sing along with.
Looking young and carefree, Julia bounced over the stage with the ease of a performer with many years of practice, and while she openly discussed her battle with anxiety you would never have known. Even writing a song about it on her new album Inner Monologue Part 1 aptly titled Anxiety. Happy was another one that had the fans eating out of her hands. With tattooed arms and a gorgeous spotty dress Julia treated us to a small snippet of her song writing magic, playing Bad Liar, 2002, Love Myself, Good For You and Sorry in a montage that had everyone singing along. Even taking a fans phone on stage and filming from her prime position, a lovely memory that the phones owner will treasure forever. Finishing up her set with Issues I had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last we would see of Julia for the night, but more on that later.
Opening with Never Comin Down the stage burst to life as Keith and his band made their presence known. Days Go By and Coming Home featuring Julia Michaels saw out the first three songs. Then it was time for a chat and Keith’s time to scan the audience and read out the signs the adoring fans had lovingly made. Not being able to read some he had his trusty spotlight on hand to light up the signs, falling on two girls waving their wares on the floor. Their sign read that that they would donate $1000 to the drought relief fund if they could come onstage. Keith got them up there in a shot together with their boyfriends for a chat and a selfie, anything to help out our struggling farmers!
Then on with the show, the stage set up was sensational with screens flashing every colour and pattern imaginable as Somewhere In My Car and Long Hot Summer rang out, Keith sounding fantastic, but who would expect anything less. Parallel Line, Put You In A Song and my favourite You Gonna Fly, the hits kept flying out, Keith’s band exemplary, all multi-instrumentalists and extremely talented singers to which we heard over the course of the evening. Keith’s shredding skills never fail to wow the crowd, and with more guitar changes than I’ve had hot dinners, there was a guitar for every occasion. Slinging them on and off like second nature, his ease with his guitars made it seemed like an extension of his body, comfortably at home slung across his hips. Oozing sexiness he had the girls and some of the guys swooning, with his tight tee and even tighter jeans, he really is the complete package. As the lights dimmed to just a spotlight on stage Keith played an outstanding acoustic solo which leads into Stupid Boy, drawing the crowd in hanging on every word, you could hear the echo of the whole arena singing as one with Keith for this beautiful ballad. A cover of the 5 Seconds of Summer song Lie To Me saw Julia return to sing with Keith, a stunning number that wowed us all. Somebody Like You saw the keyboard player Nathan Barlowe take over the vocals with a mash-up of With Or Without You by U2 that had the crowd singing their hearts out. Then the house lights dropped and Keith asked how might we light this place up if the power went out? With our phones of course! within seconds Rod Laver was awash with mobile phones, lighting the place incredibly well, people power at its best as we sang Somebody Like You in unison.
Blue Ain’t Your Color was a fan favourite and Drop Top off the latest album saw Kassi Ashton appear on the big screen singing along, continuing with the car theme Cop Car was up next. The setlist was extensive and loaded with hit after hit and while I can’t mention them all lets’ just say no one left disappointed! Niall Horan’s song Slow Hands was sung by Keith and his guitarist, their voices absolutely amazing. The Max cover of Lights Down Low saw the bass player step up for a turn, what a huge amount of talent on one stage. As The Fighter rang out we saw Carrie Underwood pop up on the big screens singing her parts as Keith made his way through the fans to the rear stage treating the back half of the arena to an up-close mini-concert. We took over Carrie’s vocals for a sing along then Keith played Kiss a Girl/Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me/You Look Good In My Shirt/Jackie Chan to the delight of all the fans who became front row groupies just for a moment or two. Seeing Keith a few years ago I wasn’t surprised when he handpicked a young lady from the audience to give his guitar too, her face was happiness personified, pure joy, shock, and love all mixed in one. Nobody will be wiping that smile off her face for a long time to come. Keith made his way back to the stage for a few more songs, with at least 20 under his belt it was a show not easily matched and was still going strong. The stage screens moving to drop and cover the stage with Keith and the band playing from behind the screen which became transparent with the exception of some vertical lines. The effects were stunning as Gone Tomorrow (Here Today) was played from within the screen which then lifted back to the ceiling. With the flashing lights and special effects, you could easily think you were at a rave party and not a rock show. Wasted Time was blisteringly good, confetti canons launching at its finale, colourful paper raining down on the fans all singing along not wanting the night to end. As we were already over the two-hour mark it was inevitable that it was going to be over soon so no one wanted to waste a minute.
After a quick break Keith and the boys were back, and while Mr. Urban held your attention all night, full credit to his sensational band they were the glue keeping the show going with precision playing that makes the songs what they are. They are a cohesive well-polished unit pumping out the finest quality sound, keeping us on our feet enjoying every second. Texas Time was song one of the encore followed by Horses which finished out the night. Keith taking time to shake hands with many fans long after his band had departed the stage. Such a genuine guy whose Aussie spirit is alive and well, holding his fans in the palm of his hand all evening. Graffiti U was a rock show that knew no bounds, pushed every limit and ticked every box, Keith Urban is the ultimate musician and performer and we should be so proud that he calls Australia home!
Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale
Gallery By Matt Allan