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Concert Reviews:
Keith Urban Keeps It Crazy And Rocking At The Palace
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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AUBURN HILLS -- As Keith Urban's crew cleared the stage of opener Gary Allan's equipment Saturday night (Nov. 3) at the Palace, a DJ positioned at the side of the stage threw Queen's "We Will Rock You" over the P.A.

It was a true harbinger of things to come.

A little bit country and a LOT rock 'n' roll, The New Zealand native's two-hour and 15-minute show at the Palace was as much Bon Jovi as Bocephus. One of Nashville's hottest instrumentalists, he brandished his guitar like a genuine six-strong hero, tossing plenty of classic rock licks -- Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting," Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever," AC/DC's "(You Shook Me) All Night Long," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" -- into his songs. Even when he strapped on a bass for "Faster Car," Urban plucked out a bit of Pink Floyd's "Money" and Free's "All Right Now."

You want more? How about a crowd-pleasing snippet of the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" as he began his encore (though he did follow that with an equally well-received sampling of Lefty Frizell's "Saginaw, Michigan) and a long, raucous take on the Steve Miller Band's "The Joker," on which Allan and all of Urban's band members sang verses of varying accuracy.

Beyond the repertoire, the 20-song set also flaunted plenty of rock-style physical energy and visual flash. A massive rear-screen stage showed live footage and the occasional prepared video. Urban made liberal use of a walkway that extended from the stage to the middle of the Palace floor -- where he and his band played a three-song mid-show set -- and he trooped into the seats, microphone stand at all, during "You Look Good in My Shirt," returning to the stage relatively unmolested.

But Urban's crowd -- clearly country and predominately female -- lapped it all up. They're used to it, of course; this is the kind of show he's been doing for several years now, and there was enough banjo and mandolin worked into the arrangements to remind all concerned where his boots are planted.

There was also a batch of finely crafted and irresistibly catchy songs that work in any number of formats. "Days Go By," "You'll Think of Me," "You're My Better Half," "Better Life," "Everybody," "Stupid Boy" and "Where the Blacktop Ends" are hits through and through. So is "Got It Right This Time (The Celebration)," which Urban dedicated to his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, and is one of two new recordings for his "Greatest Hits: 18 Kids" album that's due out Nov. 20.

A recovering alcoholic who went through rehab in 2006, Urban told the Palace crowd that the past 12 months have been "a crazy year but it's also been the best year of my life." He certainly kept things crazy on stage Saturday, and those in attendance will be hard-pressed to find a much better country -- or rock -- show anywhere else.



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