Music

Keith Urban’s charming set was full of surprises in Holmdel

Plenty of bands in large venues will take to a smaller stage mid-set, to give fans in the back a better view, but Keith Urban was sure to take it a step further.

After he ripped through three songs at the back of PNC Bank Arts Center, including his 2002 hit “Somebody Like You,” he wiped down his guitar, signed it and handed it to a woman — who never could have expected Urban would look like more than a small speck on a faraway stage.

It wasn’t the first or last grand gesture he would make before his two-hour set ended in an explosion of confetti.

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Keith Urban explores songs from “Ripcord,” his album released in May. (Sydney Shaw | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Through swaggering guitar solos and a band that could probably make a name for itself even without its charming frontman, Urban elevated his set from his assumed country-pop to something closer to earnest rock. The Australian singer delved into his back catalog and shared more than half of the tracks from his latest record “Ripcord,” released in May and the namesake for his current world tour. Urban will play at Camden’s BB&T Pavilion August 26.

For Urban, the key to success was audience engagement. After he leaned over the front row and shredded on his guitar during “Somewhere in my Car,” the most fervid singalong of the night, he invited two young women up on stage with him. They held a sign that explained how they traveled 1,500 miles to see him play in South Carolina and then followed him back to New Jersey. The trio took a selfie together, and the girls handed Urban a handwritten letter that protruded from his back pocket through the rest of the set. The endearing exchange evoked plenty of “awws” from the crowd.

Another woman’s sign read “Can I hug you before I marry my husband?” He obliged, and busted her chops when she admitted her fiancé hadn’t accompanied her to the concert.

“Oh, I see, you haven’t met him yet,” Urban said. “Are there any single fellas out there tonight?”

While Carrie Underwood didn’t make an appearance to sing “The Fighter,” Urban’s new tune that features the country darling’s vocals, a video of her singing along played on the screens behind Urban.

He did, however, bring openers Maren Morris and Brett Eldredge back out for duets. Morris took over Miranda Lambert’s verse in “We Were Us,” while Eldredge accompanied Urban on the B-Stage.

“I wanna love somebody, love somebody like you,” Eldredge sang, to which Urban replied, “Somebody like me?” The crowd cheered on the budding bromance.

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Urban plays “Long Hot Summer.” (Sydney Shaw | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

His Grammy Award-winning single “Sweet Thing” was punctuated with an epic full-band breakdown, timed to a wild light display. After making music for 26 years, Urban has figured out the blueprint for a fun, swooning sort of show, and it looks like Eldredge has been taking notice — he handed out roses to ladies in the first few rows during his set.

For his encore, Urban threw it back to 2006 with “Stupid Boy,” a powerful acoustic ballad made all the more intimate when Urban invited the entire crowd up to the front (much to security’s dismay).

Many feared a food truck fire that occurred earlier in the day would nix the concert altogether, but the flames were extinguished by the Holmdel Fire Department before most concertgoers had even woken up.

THE SET LIST

  • Main Stage:
  • “Gone Tomorrow (Here Today)”
  • “Long Hot Summer”
  • “Break on Me”
  • “Where the Blacktop Ends”
  • “Somewhere in my Car”
  • “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
  • “Gettin’ in the Way”
  • “Days Go By”
  • “We Were Us” (feat. Maren Morris)
  • “Sweet Thing”
  • “Cop Car”
  • “The Fighter”
  • B-Stage:
  • “You Gonna Fly”
  • “You Look Good in My Shirt”
  • “Somebody Like You” (feat. Brett Eldredge)
  • Main Stage:
  • “A Little Bit More”
  • “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”
  • “Wasted Time”
  • Encore:
  • “Stupid Boy”
  • “Raise ‘Em Up”

*This story was originally published on NJ.com

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