Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Getting Closer" to Keith

On Monday, I was fortunate enough to be chosen by the John Labatt Centre to take in the Keith Urban “Getting Closer” tour as an official concert reviewer. How cool is that?! Not only did I get to see one of my favourite performers live and in person, but I got to do it from the cozy comfort of a private suite high above the crowds. Anyone who knows me will tell you there are two things I adore – country music and being treated like a princess - so needless to say, I was in heaven. Of course, my +1 was my dear husband Ron who has also decided that suites are the only way to go from now on. Nothing better than caviar taste on a tuna budget :)

We were joined by co-JLC reviewer Jen and her husband Bryan who seemed equally excited to be taking in the big show – very nice couple, and in typical London fashion, it took no time at all to realize we have mutual friends in common. Six degrees of separation tends to translate into one or two degrees in the Forest City it seems.

The show was opened by family trio The Band Perry who Ron and I saw in concert recently when they opened for Tim McGraw at the JLC. They’re a young group (in age and experience) with a ton of energy and a clear love for London. Lead singer Kimberly Perry made a point of mentioning their previous visit to London only a couple of short months ago, and shared with the crowd that the very first time they heard their latest single on the radio was as they were driving into our city. Their set was upbeat, rockin’ and LOUD – playing recognizable hits and newer tunes that are sure to gain ground with country radio – and I wouldn’t doubt that they gained a few new fans that night.

But it was clear from the immense chatter that began the moment The Band Perry left the stage, this crowd was there to see Keith Urban. After a stage turnover and sound check that mostly involved a crew member calling out numbers into the microphone (at one point I actually thought I was missing a BINGO game), the lowering of the lights signalled that the time had come. Keith was about to take the stage and he was about to receive one of the loudest and most enthusiastic welcomes I have seen at a JLC concert in a long time.

From the first notes of “Put You in a Song”, it was clear that every ounce of energy Keith had would be left on the stage, even seeming out of breath at times as he ran from one side of the arena to the other making sure all his fans had an equal chance to drool over him see him.

All the hits made an appearance – from the energizing “Sweet Thing” and “Somebody Like You” to my personal favourite ballads like “Making Memories of Us” and “You’ll Think of Me” – there was no question why Keith Urban continues to dominate charts and sell out arenas around the world. I didn’t realize until this concert how incredible his guitar skills are, and if I was more of a music aficionado, this is the part where I would compare him to some of the greats...but since I’m not, I’ll just tell you to think of your favourite kick-ass guitarist, and I’m sure whoever that person is, Keith could give them a run for their money.

What I wasn’t expecting, and was most impressed by, was the amount of audience interaction there was throughout the concert. The most memorable moment of the night came as Keith was reading signs being held up in the audience, and spotted one that clearly appealed to him (I think it read: I’d like to get closer to you). Pointing the excited young sign holder out to security guards nearby, she was soon onstage with her mom, looking like she could pass out at any moment. We came to learn she was Jocelyn from Strathroy and it was obvious that both she and her mom were smitten with this Australian charmer. After some photos together, a few hugs and a little chit chat, Jocelyn worked up the courage to ask Keith for what she really wanted....a kiss. Only too happy to oblige, the sweet peck was followed up by the cutest words of the night from Jocelyn “you just made my life”.

There were a couple of other audience participation segments, and plenty of strolls through the over-enthusiastic crowd, making it appear that security had their hands full and then some trying – not always successfully - to keep the singer from being mauled.

As the set closed – almost 3 hours after it began – there was no pretend ‘ok the show is over’ BS that you often get from performers who want to hear you scream for 15 minutes before they show back up again for the encore. I would guess Keith and the band had enough time to throw back some water and maybe wipe a little dripping sweat off before heading back onto the stage for encore numbers “Tonight I Want to Cry” and “Better Life” which ended in a shower of confetti and streamers covering the crowd, and the words “we love you London” echoing through the building.

All in all, I can say this was one of the best live shows I have seen (at the risk of being banned from the fan club, I dare say he was even better than ‘my’ Tim McGraw...shhhhhh!) and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy tickets next time his tour rolls into London.

As for my stint as a JLC Reviewer, I hope this review helps give you a glimpse into yet another of the FABULOUS shows London is fortunate to get thanks to the John Labatt Centre, and I thank the JLC for treating me like a princess in exchange for doing what I love to do most...share my opinion :)

Things I learned from this experience:

1. I can still rock a cowboy hat

2. Beer tastes better when it’s free

3. Singing along without as many people surrounding you means those who are nearby can hear you way better – sorry Jen and Bryan!

4.. All women – young and old – get weak in the knees when they realize that not only did they TOUCH Keith Urban, but that his sweat is still on their hands

5. London really IS the place to be for first-class entertainment