Although Keith Urban has always been tremendously popular among UK country fans, before 2019 he hadn’t toured here for 14 years. That all changed with his appearance at that year’s C2C, alongside a barnstorming warm-up show at the O2 Kentish Town Forum. After receiving a tremendous reception from the audience, Keith announced a return visit in 2020 – which was sadly postponed due to the pandemic. Now, finally he’s back over here and performing around the country as part of his The Speed Of Now World Tour, including two shows at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith in London.
Arriving on stage around 8.45 PM to the strains of the Clash’s ‘London Calling’, Urban and his band opened the show with ‘Days Go By’. Instantly the audience were singing and dancing along and there was a fantastic energy in the room from the off. You could tell that Urban was really enjoying being back performing in front of fans and he showed off some killer guitar licks in the performance too, which was met with rapturous applause and cheering.
The two-hour set provided a whistle-stop tour through Urban’s greatest hits, featuring tracks from across his career, as well as recent single ‘Wild Hearts’ and the new 80s-influenced track ‘Nightfalls’. One thing that struck me was the sheer variety in Urban’s music. Although he’s always been somewhat experimental, particularly in his more recent albums, seeing it all laid out together showed just how versatile he is. I also felt like the show struck a really good balance between the high-energy tracks like ‘Long Hot Summer’, the funky ‘Never Comin Down’ and ‘Somewhere In My Car’ to slower numbers such as ‘Parallel Line’, ‘God Whispered Your Name’ and ‘Blue Ain’t Your Colour’ and more nostalgic, midtempo songs like ‘John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16’. It’s a real skill to put a show together like that, especially when your musical style has such a wide range, and I think Urban pulled it off well, all whilst showcasing what he does best with some killer guitar riffs scattered throughout.
The other thing that stood out was how much fun Urban seemed to be having by regularly cracking jokes and engaging with the audience by asking if everyone was having a good time and reading all the signs people had brought with them. He even pulled audience member Sarah, who’d come all the way from Denmark, up on stage to sing a bit of The Fighter with him! It felt like a really relaxed performance – despite him saying he ‘didn’t know what to expect’ – and the mutual love between him and the sold-out crowd was very much in evidence.
For me my favourite part of the performance came midway through, kicking off with ‘One Too Many’ (which featured a giant projection of duet partner Pink on the big screens either side of the stage) before Urban jumped down into the audience to play a cover of Adele’s ‘Easy On Me’. He brought a real sense of vulnerability to the song and gave it a twist that I felt I hadn’t heard before, then followed it up with ‘You’ll Think Of Me’. This time, he drew out the angrier side of the song, bringing an edge to it that’s absent from the recorded version, and I loved the extra energy he gave to the song. After playing ‘Somebody Like You’ – which drew the biggest crowd reaction of the evening – Urban led the audience in a rendition of the classic ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, encouraging everyone to sing and sway along. It was a really joyful moment and a powerful reminder of what live music can do.
Urban closed the main portion of his set with ‘The Fighter’ (featuring a projection of Carrie Underwood in a T-shirt with his face on it) and ‘Wasted Time’, before returning to the stage alone with his acoustic guitar to play ‘Stupid Boy’ for the encore. Again I really like that he took an untypical approach to this and it particularly highlighted the depth of emotion in the song and in his delivery of it. The crowd roared their approval as he came to a close and, after he and the band took their bows, he was spotted signing memorabilia from the stage.
Even after over 20 years in the business, it’s clear Keith Urban is an artist at the top of his game and has a really strong sense of love for the UK audience – and that feeling is mutual. He put together a masterclass of a show featuring all his top tracks, showing off his incredible skills as a guitar player and tremendous crowd engagement throughout, which all made for a fantastic night out. We may have been waiting two years to see him back over here, but it was well worth it. Hopefully the next time it won’t be quite as long!
Set list: 1. Days Go By 2. Wild Hearts 3. The Fighter (with audience member Sarah) 4. Long Hot Summer 5. Parallel Line 6. Never Coming Down 7. Somewhere In My Car 8. Nightfalls 8. John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 9. Superman 10. God Whispered Your Name 11. One Too Many 12. Easy On Me (Adele cover) 13. You’ll Think Of Me 14. Somebody Like You 15. The Lion Sleeps Tonight 16. Blue Ain’t Your Colour 17. The Fighter 18. Wasted Time 19. Stupid Boy Performance date: 6th May 2022