.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

November 30, 2005

Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Keith?

Yesterday, I finally received my Keith Urban Live DVD, which was released on October 10, though I only went looking for one in the aftermath of the CMA Awards, when he received the phallic symbol for Best Male Vocalist and Best Entertainer, and performed an excellent version of "Better Life" from his recent album Be Here.*

I've got that album, and the one before that (Golden Road), and I'd always suspected that he'd be great live, because he's such a good guitar player. After seeing the CMA Awards performance, I remarked to Simon that he played really well, and made it look effortless, which is a good trick if you can pull it off. To play good lead guitar whilst holding down a lead vocal is something else - especially if you also avoid the face-pulling.

Livin' Right Now is excellent. Filmed in HD video, the pictures are superb and sharp, the colours rich, and the sound is top quality. Before an audience of predominantly female fans in a theatre-style venue (steeply ranked seats after the front few rows, and balconies going up the back wall), he gives a brilliant demonstration of what he's about.

You'll see him not only sing and play great lead guitar, but sign autographs whilst singing, lie flat on his back playing riffs, grab a camera off a fan and take a photo of himself with her, and all the other things you might expect from an entertainer of the year.

But wait a minute. Because you're thinking Country, right? How about this Amazon.co.uk blurb?
The concert DVD of country crooner Keith Urban features a riotous set from Los Angeles that features the songs "These Are The Days", "Days Go By", "The Hard Way" and "Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me" to name a few, plus extra behind the scenes footage.

Not just Country, but a country crooner? I don't particularly care when it comes to categorisations. I don't listen to country because I like cowboy hats and jeans with creases, but because I like the songs and - especially - the gee-tar playing. So, usually, I'd say what-ever.

But there's something up here, because Urban is no crooner. One suspects that the Amazon employee who wrote the blurb doesn't know what a crooner is. Anyway, Urban's voice is the least Country part of him - nothing like an Alan Jackson, or a Dwight Yoakam or a Brad Paisley. He's got a rock voice, pure and simple. It's quite pleasant, but has a limited range, and breaks up quite easily.

As for his guitar playing, there's a lot of springy twang, and doing-doing riffing, but, to me, that's how guitars should sound. As far as I'm concerned, Urban produces the ultimate guitar tone, and plays with the technique I'd kill to have.

In fact, as a package, I think Urban is the kind of rock star I'd like to have been, when I wanted to be a rock star. He's not changing the world with his lyrics, so he's not going to attract that kind of crazy, but he's got floppy-blonde-hair good looks with a crooked nose and shiny teeth, he looks comfortable in his skin, can carry a tune, and plays guitar like a demon.

I suspect a live audience for him in the UK would consist of middle-aged men in lumberjack shirts and cowboy hats from the Woolworths toy department (fooled by that Country tag), but in Los Angeles, the audience ranged from kids of about 8 to people "of a certain age", but they were predominantly young, female, and having the time of their lives. And they weren't just dragged in off the LA streets, either: you can see them singing along with all his songs, which is more than I could do.

Why Country? Dunno. Imagaine a parallel universe in which the Eagles and the Rolling Stones, the Band, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were all filed under Country in your local record emporium, and you'll understand where Urban sits in the scheme of things. Sure, members of his band play mandolin, dobro, and even a banjo (but it's a 6-string guitar banjo) at times, but those are just fantastic textures to have with electric guitars and B3 Hammond organ. Listen: Urban does a cover of David Dundas' "Jeans On" (remember? From the old Brutus ads in the 70s), and he does a version of Tom Petty's solo hit "Free Fallin'", and neither of them seem out of joint with the rest of his set.

Personally, I could do with less of the audience singalongs, and grabbing girls out of the audience for a quick snog (she holds up a sign saying, "Kiss Me, I'm Getting Married"), but it's all part of being an entertainer, I guess.

Best of all, this does what a live set should do - he does your favourites ("You Look Good In My Shirt" is a real party piece here), but he also does the ones you don't think much of on record, and somehow lifts them up with the emotional drive of the live performance. I'll write more on his guitar rig over at GuitarGAS, but if you like proper guitar playing, this DVD is definitely worth having.


*As a final word of warning, do not buy the weirdly compiled UK releases. Get the proper US version with a black and white photo of him sitting in a car on the cover, for example. Otherwise, you'll end up with some shitty remix, tailored for what some record company dunderhead thinks is the European taste.


  • I would definately agree with this reviewer,and simply add that this dude,KU I mean,has a real grasp on the country thing..(CMA award winner)...with something else going on..it's like he's tapped into a groove that is spot on for now(looks/fashion or lack of it/street cred..as in you feel that he would make a great mate to go down the pub with...that's if NK would let him!Hey..and not a STETSON in sight..whoah...Cheers Paul Cairns Kent.England

    By Anonymous paul cairns, at 9:11 am  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home