Monday, August 31, 2009

Escaping Together

This isn't your father's country music. I was lucky enough to attend the Keith Urban & Sugarland "Escape Together World Tour" Saturday night at the Sommet Center in Nashville. The house was packed and the stage was set for a rockin' night in the Music City. Sugarland opened the concert with their voice-powered song "Love." Jennifer Nettles' has one of the most recognizable voices in country music today. The expectations are always high when a popular band or group (especially country) plays in a Nashville venue. Keith and Sugarland had played in Knoxville the night before, so I expected to see some fatigue in their show...guess not! It had been 5 years since Jennifer and Kristian last played in Nashville. They recently added Brandon Bush, who played keyboard in the band Train. Sugarland isn't an opening act band. Normally, bands are jumping for the chance to open up for them, so I didn't view their set as an opening act and trust me, it wasn't. They exceeded my expectations. Their set included R.E.M's "Nightswimming" and Michael Jackson's "Rock With Me." Jennifer can sing anything she wants, and it was nice to see them implement different genres into their performance. They even covered "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina & The Waves as their final encore. There's no doubt that the highlight of their show was "Stay." Using only one spotlight and an acoustic guitar, Jennifer's words brought the house down. There's just something special about turning the lights and the techno down for a few mintues and letting your voice and lyrics do the talking. Sugarland wrapped with a standing ovation by the crowd and the stage was set for Keith Urban.

Some people only think that Keith Urban is just a sidekick to Nicole Kidman who happens to have a few country songs...if they only knew! KEITH CAN PLAY. From the opening guitar riffs in "Hit The Ground Runnin'" to the sweet touch of "Tonight I Wanna Cry," Keith can do it all with a guitar. I've always heard that he can play, but have never seen it in person until now. Realize, this is coming from someone who sees Keith Richards and Joe Walsh as my "Guitar Heroes." Keith used at least 10 different guitars and played the "hello" out of all of them. There's plenty of ways to judge a concert. Crowd reaction and interaction is another key factor for me. During the middle of one of his hits, he ventures through the crowd to the back of the arena on a small box stage. There he finishes his song and plays a couple more from the "Stage B." The audience erupts as he opens "Making Memories Of Us" on the box stage with just one spotlight and an acoustic guitar. There's not many people that can bring 20 thousand on their feet by just using an acoustic guitar and vocals. "Only You Can Love Me This Way" wraps up the acoustic set on the box stage and he cranks up a faster tune and heads back to the main stage. From the moment he came down to the box stage the concert changed. The audience was already electric, but that volume and tone jumped 3 decibels after fans saw that Keith is all about fan interaction. One of the most impressive songs of the night was "You Look Good In My Shirt." The song itself is one of my Urban favorites, but the performance raised the song to a new level. Not only were the guitar riffs great, but Keith went back into the stands to "wail away." I was impressed the most at how Keith used the adrenaline of the audience to help power this tune. Plus, how many artists can actually stand on a seat in the stands (with thousands of screaming fans around you) and jam like it was your first time playing that song? Encores are a big part of concerts these days, and Keith nailed it. "Tonight I Wanna Cry" was the sweet opening that every artist needs for an encore. He ended the night with "Better Life" and confetti flew from the rafters.

After the confetti settled and the crowd scattered, I knew that this wasn't just any other concert. I wanted to make sure that I took some time to let things settle in before I gave my review....and my opinion is still as strong as ever! I've seen The Rolling Stones play Soldier Field in Chicago, The Eagles rock the streets of Memphis, and Dave Matthews Band pour out its heart at Vanderbilt University...Keith Urban and Sugarland are now on that list! I've seen tons of concerts...okay I'll admit I'm a concert junkie...and this one is up there near the top. From crowd interaction to song selection, you couldn't ask for a better show. These artists poured their heart out and left it all on the stage. They realize that times are tough, and made sure that they gave everyone an "escape" for a night. I'm not writing this to campaign for country music...there's plenty of people who are disgusted with it...I'm just saying that maybe you should give it a chance? This isn't your father's country music. These songs aren't about losing your dog, or your girl, or getting drunk...these songs are about living life. I can live my life a little bit easier now, thanks to one great "escape."

Check Out "Sweet Thing" from the concert below....Thanks YouTube....

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