Keith UrbanWho would’ve thought the Urban legend would need to buy-in the street cred of Ash Grunwald, as support? Still, I’m glad he did, as it gave my partner and I something substantial to chew on, as we’d only qualify as sub-Urban fans, at best. Whether ‘watered down’, in the way one suspects supports often are (or are asked to be), or not, the characteristically explosive Grunwald seemed that little bit more chilled than is usually the case; which isn’t to say he didn’t present a typically engaging set (in itself no mean feat, as winning over an essentially one-eyed ‘we want Keith’ crowd, in a not overly cosmopolitan satellite city, like Wollongong, is quite an ask).

It was a long wait, pressed against the BlueScope Steel wall, in P13 & 14, Section 22, at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre (indeed our view from Mt Olympus was so distant, I’ve little more than a printed ticket to verify it was actually Keith on stage). And when the moment finally came, after around 2 hours of waiting, we couldn’t have been more underwhelmed. But that, apparently, was, or is, just us, because, all in all, I probably haven’t witnessed a more ardent response since Nuremberg.

Since I, to my knowledge, had never heard a single KU song, until this concert, I was a long way from shouting cheers of recognition, let alone singing along, Countdown-style. This should have made the impact, potentially, greater and the effect invigorating and fresh, but, alas, not. And don’t think I’m withholding on the basis of some arbitrary sense of cool. I’m at constant war with such pretensions. It’s just that, despite exhibiting flawless musicianship and professionalism (Keith, alone, is a stylish and accomplished axeman), the songs (other than a playful piano cameo, in the indelible form of Blister In The Sun & a surprising, if inferior, cover of Dragon’s Are You Old Enough) failed to engage, let alone enrapture.

Of course, the barn-like acoustic of the WEC did nothing to assist, for the most part, since vocals were, predominantly, indecipherable.

But it goes deeper, or, rather, not nearly deep enough: neither my best girl or I were affected; touched; moved.

Urban, as songwriter, embodies all that is revered in commercial country-crossover. But not in this country.

Urban’s is American country, played and sung by an Aussie. He is the Jon Bon Jovi of that genre, right down to his rock-God stylings and preened blond hair. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if you like that kind of thing. But while enthusiasts, of all ages, surrounded us, dancing, clapping, throwing back bourbon and, at the height of mindlessness, shouting ‘my girlfriend wants to see your dick!’, we remained substantially static, feeling keenly out of our element.

The mesmeric atmosphere was such we could have been seeing, for all we knew, Garth Brooks, or at Hillsong; it felt synthetic and anonymous. Yet the near full house lapped it up. Which led us to ponder, ‘why?’ (Given the lack of connection, I found myself with plenty of time to ponder, my mind wandering aimlessly; for example, ‘shouldn’t Hitman Harding be known as Hardman Hitting?’) The ready conclusion we drew was that Urban’s is music resoundingly familiar (’though not to us), relaxed and comfortable. It’s music, I dare say, for unashamed neocons and Urban might as well go by the name Ronald McDonald, such is his bland, mass appeal.

How much keener I’d be to bolster the Urban legend, if only on the basis he’s an Aussie, married to 'our Nicole'. But, try as I might, I can’t quite, in all authenticity, bring myself to do that. Yet he seems like a decent guy (he even gave away a guitar). Maybe that’s the problem. It’s all a bit cleancut. But, hell, Keith Urban doesn’t need my endorsement.


KEITH URBAN

Sydney

Hordern Pavilion
Wednesday 26th March - Sold Out!

Wollongong
WIN Entertainment Centre
Friday 28th March
Tickets: Ticketek www.ticketek.com.au or 132 849

Sydney
Hordern Pavilion
Saturday 29th March
Tickets: Ticketek www.ticketek.com.au or 132 849

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