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Rock-solid Keith Urban lets the good times roll in Holmdel

Genial country star’s guitar heroics touch upon myriad genres.
Keith Urban holds up one of the many guitars he played during his July 29 show at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Keith Urban holds up one of the many guitars he played during his July 29 show at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

With his lean physique, shaggy hair and prominent tattoos, Keith Urban certainly looks the part of a rock star. And when he flashes his top-shelf guitar skills, Urban sounds like one, too.

Nevertheless, Urban still is defined and viewed as a country artist, despite landing more than a dozen songs in the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 over the past 20 years.

Whether overcoming misleading perceptions that occur with genre classification or achieving massive crossover success a la Taylor Swift matters to Urban at this point in his career is unknown. Even so, he is not the kind of performer who would address such matters through words and actions onstage. Urban’s concerts are all about having a good time, with his charm, megawatt smile and audience engagement complementing the music.

Urban showcased hits on July 29 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Urban showcased hits on July 29 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

On July 29 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, Urban showcased hits, key album tracks and a recently released song called “Brown Eyes Baby.” Along the way, he may have set a record for saying “New Jersey” during one show and also sprinkled in parts of classic rock and pop tunes that were not lost on the audience. In the show-opening “Tumbleweed,” there were lines from the Ram Jam-popularized “Black Betty.” During “You Gonna Fly,” Urban sang the chorus to the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See,” and he deviated from “Somebody Like You” to lead a goofy singalong of the oft-covered “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Contemporary stars Julia Michaels, Pink and Carrie Underwood were featured singers during the show — in the form of video segments that synced up with what was happening onstage.

Around the 10th song each night on his current tour, Urban pivots from his standard set list and lets a Price Is Right-type video wheel determine which song to play next. At this show, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Steve Miller’s “The Joker” were among the choices, but ultimately the wheel stopped on “Forever,” a track from Urban’s latest studio album, 2020’s The Speed of Now Part 1. Urban laughingly warned the crowd he wasn’t sure if he’d performed the song live before, but in the end, there were no apparent rough patches or bum notes by him or his backing band.

As for those aforementioned guitar skills: Urban plays with flash and feel, using an arsenal of guitars that would make Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen smile. The solo near the conclusion of “Where the Blacktop Ends” entered heavy metal territory, while in the following song, “Long Hot Summer,” Urban’s bluesy approach added space and drama.

Upcoming stops on Urban’s U.S. tour, which runs through early November, include Camden, New Jersey (July 31); Jacksonville, Florida (Aug. 4-5); Lake Tahoe, Nevada (Sept. 1-2); and Nashville, Tennessee (Oct. 7).

Keith Urban soaks up the applause July 29 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Keith Urban soaks up the applause July 29 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

  

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