Monday, October 24, 2011

Keith Urban’s Get Closer Tour — Target Center Minneapolis 10.15.11

“If you wanna sing and dance and stand on your chair… and annoy the people behind you, then this is the concert for you”

Keith Urban, as he welcomed the crowd to the final show of the Get Closer 2011 World Tour at the Target Center.

It’s rare that Minneapolis kicks off or ends a tour, so when we found out Minnesota would be the last stop of the tour we were thrilled! Nothing is worse than feeling like the artist thinks it’s “just another show.” Fans want to be part of something unique and special when they’re at a concert, and that’s exactly what they got from Keith Urban.

Florida native and rising country star Jake Owen opened the show with a lively, but slightly underwhelming performance. The audience was ready to party and were on their feet from the moment the lights went down til Jake’s chucks left the stage. The tour seemed to be taking a toll on Owen; his set was flat and lacked the enthusiasm we expected for the last night of a tour, especially on songs like “8 Second Ride” and “Yeehaw.” In addition, he played quite a few album cuts early in the set that many fair weather fans (including us) didn’t know. He recently released a new album Barefoot Blue Jean Night, and played a few from it like one Beth enjoyed called “Wide Awake.” He had the crowd waving their cellphones like lighters with a slow song called “Heaven” but the best response was for his summer hit “Barefoot Blue Jean Night.”
In general, it doesn’t seem like Jake’s music matches his personal style, considering he’s a wave boarding sufer dude, but the pop summer anthem BBJN (be honest — there’s nothing country about the song) has a completely different sound than anything he’s released previously, which suits him well.

At first I (Beth) thought that Jake Owen was an odd choice for an opener for Keith Urban, but under the big tent country genre they are more alike than Keith and Jason Aldean or Chris Young. It’s clear this tour was arranged to sell tickets to the ladies. Neither Keith or Jake are the cowboy hat-wearin’ rodeo-ropin’ field-plowin’ type of country singers. Jake is hilarious online (twitter @jakeowen) but his personality and hipster style didn’t come through on stage until he came back for the encore to sing “Jack and Diane” in a Honey Badger tshirt (haha!) and a fake moustache. Overall, Jake Owen’s performance wasn’t a flop, but honestly it wasn’t the most inspired performance either.

During the brief stage change, we could feel the nearly full arena buzzing with anticipation until finally the lights went down and the crowd erupted into cheers. Keith Urban anticlimactically walked from the curtain to the front of the small, narrow stage which had two wings that got him “closer” to the lower level seats. 
The set was downsized from his last Twin Cities concert, which was at the larger Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. This time he ditched the usual dual video screens on either side of the stage and instead used one large circular screen encompassed by roller coaster-esque scaffolding. There was also a giant disco ball that created many beautiful starry night sky inspired romantic moments, like during “Raining On Sunday.” The intimate setting created by the staging allowed Keith and the fans to get up close and personable with one another. We have never seen an artist so comfortable and relaxed in such a large setting. He even took several opportunities to stop and interact with the audience.

Keith brought a group of hunter’s wives onstage for the photos they came “hunting” for, held a “Kiss a Girl” karaoke contest, and played on two satellite stages located in the audience. Fans Got even Closer to him during his run through the crowd to perform “You Look Good in My Shirt” on the hidden back stage next to where my seats were (Beth)… an awesome moment where I got a souvenir money can’t buy: Keith Urban sweat.

For two and a half hours Keith played hit after hit, causing us to wonder “didn’t he play this already?” more than once. Enjoying his phenomenal guitar playing live was the best part of the show. There’s a reason why this guy’s picture is in the window of Guitar Center. We’ve alluded before that some other artists *coughKennyTraceTimMcGrawcough* use their guitar as a kind of “prop,” but that is NOT the case with Keith Urban. He is a musician first and foremost and a vocalist, albeit talented, secondary. It might go unnoticed by most, but we appreciate a performer who plays the lead on his songs.
If the audience was listening closely like we were, they got chills from his powerful solos on songs like “Stupid Boy,” “Til summer Comes Around,” and “Georgia Woods,” which Keith actually wrote on Waylon Jennings’ guitar. He likened the legend’s guitar to a “holy grail” who he also paid tribute to by singing “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” as an intro to “Who Wouldn’t Want To Be Me” [video]. That Lite-Bright guitar he is playing in the video was definitely NOT Waylon’s guitar… haha.

I (Aly) have been a KU fan since “Where the Blacktop Ends,” but the last few years I have fallen out of musical love with him. After taking a dark turn with Be Here and Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing, he’s had a slow climb up back through my musical rotation, but his show reminded me why I was so captivated by this Australian transplant over ten years ago.

Although there were no special guests at our show, like Jack Black who played “Devil Went Down To Georgia” with Keith the week before in L.A. or Eric Church who sang his song “Springsteen” with Keith only days prior in Milwaukee, it was still a special night. For the very few cover songs he added to his set, I (Beth) can’t complain that he included one by one of my favorite bands Little Big Town! Just after he played “You Gonna Fly,” a track which actually features Karen and Kimberly of LBT, the video for “Boondocks” appeared on the screen and my heart practically stopped. It was an unexpected surprise which injected a ton of excitement into the show. Keith also surprised the audience by adding a fan favorite, “But For The Grace of God,” to his extended encore, which he rarely plays live so it made for a sweet audience singalong moment [video].

We didn’t hear any new music at the show, which was a little disappointing. By our estimate, he’s due for a new album next fall. If we were to hope for an artist to take some time off to find his sound again, and maybe even take a musical detour like Dierks did with his bluegrass album Up on The Ridge, it would be Keith.  He’s an incredibly talented musician and songwriter, but he since he’s moved on to be a family man he has become kind of generic and diluted. Keith Urban is a superstar and can afford to take those risks at this point in his career. So we say — go for it.

Keith Urban’s concerts are always high energy and have top-notch production, but they never sacrifice music for aesthetics, which is why he remains a touring fan favorite. It was one of those experiences where we didn’t realize how much we missed him til we saw him live again. Luckily, if you’re in the MN/WI area next summer, you can see him again headlining the final night of Country Fest 2012!

Aly and Beth

[The End]

Jake Owen set list: Anywhere With You / Yeehaw / Wide Awake / One That Got Away / World On Fire / Heaven / Barefoot Blue Jean Night / Alone With You / Don’t Think I Can’t Love You / 8 Second Ride
Keith Urban set list: Put You In A Song / Days Gone By / I Told You So / Raining On Sunday / Long Hot Summer / Stupid Boy / (Silly Love Songs - Paul McCartney, intro) Making Memories Of Us / I’m In / Blue Jeans / You’ll Think Of Me / You Gonna Fly / Boondocks - Little Big Town / Georgia Woods / Only You Can Love Me This Way / Til Summer Comes Around / Sweet Thing / Kiss A Girl / Without You / Somebody Like You / (Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way - Waylon Jennings, intro) Who Wouldn’t Want To Be Me / With Or Without You - U2 by Jerry Flowers / American Girl - Tom Petty by Danny Rader / It’s A Long Way To The Top - AC/DC by Brian Nutter / You Look Good In My Shirt / [encore] Tonight I Wanna Cry / Jack & Diane - John Mellencamp (with Jake Owen) / Where The Blacktop Ends / Better Half / But For The Grace of God / Better Life


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