Country superstar Keith Urban may have played a shorter set than some of the other acts at RodeoHouston, but he was worth the price of admission in an entertaining display of charismatic showmanship in front of 72,000 at NRG Stadium on March 15.
The Australia-raised performer only played 10 tracks at RodeoHouston, his first appearance since 2016, but he made the most of his time, giving the fans mostly hits that he’s known for: contagious hooks and killer rock guitar riffs with just enough twang to call it country. For real, though — the man can shred a Fender Telecaster with the best of them.
He and his four-piece backing band opened up with three cuts from No. 1 U.S. chart-topping album, Fuse, the first being the big hooks of “Somewhere In My Car.” Dressed in a designer shirt and jeans, tattoos clearly displayed, and a perfectly coiffed haircut that wouldn’t look out of place in a Def Leppard cover band, Urban didn’t say much until the end of Fuse deep cut, “Good Thing,” with its guitar licks straight from a KISS concert. Following the song, he let out a big whoop, acknowledging the party was in full throttle.
That kicked into the catchy “Little Bit of Everything,” set to a hip-hop beat and a sweet harmonized chorus. Next up was the premiere of brand new song, that will likely be included on his upcoming new album with the working title, Graffiti U.
“We have a new album that we are working on right now that we’ll be coming out with soon and we have a song that we should do here tonight,” Urban said. “It’s called ‘Texas Time,’ so if we should premiere it anywhere, it should be here in Houston, Texas.”
An almost surefire future hit about missing country living, and more specifically, Texas living, it sounded like a '70s Elton John track. In other words, it’s a crossover pop banger waiting to happen — disco crossed with a C&W twinge, set to a four-to-the-floor stomp.
Crowd favorite “Blue Ain’t Your Color” had a synth riff lifted almost straight from fellow Aussie band INXS’ greatest ballad, “Never Tear Us Apart.” Carrie Underwood duet “The Fighter” was good, clean, country-pop with even more disco flourishes despite an unsynchronized video of her singing being one of the very few mistakes of the evening.
“This is the seventh time we’ve played right here,” acknowledged Urban during the show. And, unlike RodeoHouston rookies OneRepublic the night before, his veteran status was apparent throughout as he expertly drew the audience in, perhaps making better use of the Stars Over Texas stage than any other performer this year.
One such moment came during a rendition of top 10 hit, “Raise ‘Em Up,” when Urban walked to one of the stage’s distinct five points and played an lengthy guitar solo as it, ahem, raised him up into the air, improvising lyrics on the fly to huge ovation, including words from "Deep in the Heart of Texas":
“Houston you have no idea how much I love playing here every time/There’s 72,000 people in here and it feels like it’s just you and I.”
Urban also got even more close and personal, interacting with the crowd during 2002 No. 1 hit, “Somebody Like You” (the only song he performed that was released before 2010), jumping off the stage to shake hands with the first row before climbing up onto a box next to the seating rail at what would be the Texan’s 50-yard-line. It was there he got the crowd singing along with him, before proceeding to melt the faces off of those in that section with another superb guitar solo.
Urban’s command of the audience, the overall musicianship, screen visuals, and use of the unique stage design undeniably made this one of the better shows at RodeoHouston this year.
After an extended version of 2016 hit, “Wasted Time,” Urban wrapped up the proceedings, letting everyone know, “We’ll be back for No. 8!” It’s a promise thousands of ecstatic fans hope he keeps.
Keith Urban Setlist
“Somewhere In My Car”
“Little Bit of Everything”
“Texas Time” (new song)
“Blue Ain’t Your Color”
“The Fighter” featuring Carrie Underwood
“Raise ‘Em Up”Deep In The Heart Of Texas”
“Long Hot Summer”
“Somebody Like You”