Before we get to the question which must be put to Our Keith, let’s acknowledge some unequivocally praiseworthy elements, beginning with the fact the man can play guitar superbly. And not just his regular flashy-but-appropriate solos but several really impressive moments on solo acoustic guitar such as .
He is also natural and good-bloke-charming between songs: bringing to the stage a 12-year-old girl whose sign says she’s loved him for 11 years (what happened to that wasted year, mum and dad?); congratulating NSW on the Origin win as a Queenslander (via New Zealand – which as we know is in Queensland) married to a New South Welshwoman; confessing said wife (apparently she’s also well known and was somewhere in the room) had had doubts about him before they married eight years ago but graciously gave him a chance.
In a smartly produced and well paced show he packages his Australian references neatly, with Jessica Mauboy and, to even greater applause, Jimmy Barnes joining him for a curiously jaunty take on Cold Chisel’s and a politely rousing . (What the permanently unnecessary Joel Madden was doing here for a wistfulness-free – yes, the Oasis song – is something only the TV show marketers can answer.)
But maybe most impressive of all in this context is that in performance, even if he is known as a country act, he refuses to pretend that he, these songs or this show are in any way related to country music. Whereas most modern commercial country acts throw in pedal steel occasionally, drop in a banjo solo once or twice or run through some fiddle to prove even a tenuous connection to the roots of their nominal musical label, on stage Urban says bugger that for a game of soldiers.
Sure, there’s electric banjo visible several times and a mandolin once too, but they’re buried in the mix so his opening, , could have been an Aerosmith song in their 80s revival (clean “dirty” guitar, thick drums and Desmond Child-standard chorus) while nods to sub-Lynyrd southern rock. and are crafted pop which take cues from Bryan (and certainly not Ryan) Adams while comes across like Foreigner and is straight out middle American rock which offers hope for nondescript Australian bands such as Eskimo Joe that they should change nothing except to call themselves “country”.