Summer is technically over, but for Keith Urban, it’s been a long hot one—with his single “Long Hot Summer” just reaching number one on the country charts as his vaunted Get Closer 2011 World Tour closes out later this week in three Midwestern arenas.
For his fans, Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis will soon become Monkeyville as Urban and his band take the stage in those cities.
And if the shows are like his recent sell-out performance at LA’s Staples Center, they’ll be very happy.
For the really lucky ones, about 100 in each venue, they’ll be part of his Backstage Experience, getting an opportunity to have their picture taken with him and ask him some questions in a news conference-like setting with food and refreshments before the show.
Meeting Keith in LA for the first time, he was relaxed and down to earth. His parents from Australia were out for the show, but wife Nicole Kidman and their two girls weren’t able to attend.
Get Closer isn’t just a catchy tour name. Urban spends a lot of the two-hour show actually in the audience, using specially designed ramps from the semi-circular stage which is dressed in an amusement park theme—complete with a mini-roller coast and a huge oval-shaped video monitor.
“I love those ramps so much,” Urban told Billboard about the staging. “I liked the feeling of accessibility to the audience — there’s no fence, no barriers, no massive security people. So I thought I would take that a little further this time. The entire front of the stage is sloped down into the arena floor. To me it feels much more inviting from the audience standpoint. It just does away with all of the feeling of barriers. It feels like they can just wander up the ramps and come onto the stage if they want.”
And that they did, when he chose three people from the audience to perform their version of his song “I Wanna Kiss a Girl.” It was like a live version of “American Idol” as two women and a guy from Corona del Mar belted out the song, after Keith asked them if they knew the words. “Of course,” they all answered—and proved it. The audience pronounced the guy the winner.
Urban also took time to read fans’ signs all around the arena and called out each section, even the nosebleed seats at Staples. Later, he individually introduced each band member: Chris McHugh (drums), Brian Nutter (acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, accordion, keyboard), Jerry Flowers (bass and acoustic guitar) and Danny Radar (slide guitar) who did a brief performance center stage, to the crowd’s delight.
One of the many highlights, “Long Hot Summer,” which Urban co-wrote withRichard Marx, beginning it in Nashville and then finishing it on his tour bus while he was opening for the Eagles last year. Among his other well-received hits, “I Told You So,” “You Can Love Me This Way” and “Raining on Sunday.”
A big moment came when he brought out Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty for a blistering rendition of “Proud Mary.”
“Days Go By,” “Somebody Like You,” “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” and “Stupid Boy” also had the crowd enraptured, and thrilled by his mean rock guitar solo during the conclusion of “Summer Comes Around.”
The LA set culminated with another surprise guest, the musically inclined and talented actor Jack Black.
And in another effort to involve his fans, Urban is promoting his new fragrance, PHOENIX by Keith Urban and inviting them create a 30-second commercial spot for it. He’ll choose the winner, whose spot will be broadcast on national network television after the conclusion of the promotion November 11th, with the winner to be announced November 14th. More information is at www.people.com/keith_urban.