Keith Urban in Nashville: A surprise-filled Friday night

Keith Urban gave a lively performance at Bridgestone Arena as part of his “The Speed Of Now” tour.

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Barrie Barto

Keith Urban performs at Bridgestone Arena, as photographed on Oct. 7, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

Kaitlyn Bushey

Country music legend, Keith Urban is nearing the end of his “The Speed of Now” tour, but if his performance on Oct. 7 at Bridgestone Arena was any indication, he is still going strong. The lighting choices and the order of the tracks worked effectively and made the show engaging. Peppy openers from Ingrid Andress and Tyler Hubbard set the tone for the night, and the two hours that Urban spent on the stage flew by.

As the beginning chords of “Tumbleweed” played, fans could start to make out the outline of Urban in the misty gray smoke highlighted by electric red lights. Urban emerged from the smoke with slow steady steps, building suspense. As he pumped his fist in the air, his energy rallied the crowd and excitement grew, but he did not turn down the heat after this first song. Throughout the night, Urban showed off his skills with multiple guitar solos. After using binoculars to read a sign in the back of the stadium that read “I skipped school for you,” Urban invited the young creator of the sign onto the stage to take a picture. Urban consistently puts significant effort into interacting with his fans, as reflected through this gesture.

The theme for the lively concert, according to Urban, was “Broadway to Nissan.” Urban talked about how he got his start playing in small clubs on Broadway back in 1997. He said he wanted to highlight another artist who is currently doing just that and brought up Kayley Green for two songs. Green is a small country artist who performs in clubs on Broadway as a part of a band she calls Nashville Cover Band. She was a natural on the stage as she belted out a beautiful cover of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” I felt like I was living her dream with her. 

Just when I thought the concert couldn’t get any better, Urban continued his “Broadway to Nissan” theme by welcoming award-winning country artist Luke Combs to the stage. Getting to see Luke Combs perform live was not what I was expecting, but it made an incredible night even better. Combs sang his song “When It Rains It Pours” and “Raise Em’ Up” as a duet with Urban.

For his iconic track “You’ll Think of Me,” Urban switched things up with a new view. He made his way to the other stage toward the back of the venue, walking by fans with farther-back seats who gave him high fives as he performed just a few inches in front of them. “You’ll Think of Me” is my favorite Urban song, so I was a little disappointed that I didn’t have a clear view of him while he was singing it, but perhaps someone else who loves that song got a front-row seat. If any audience members were starting to feel tired at this point in the concert, the passionate lyrics he added and emotional performance certainly reenergized them.

Urban emphasized throughout the night that he wasn’t just a big-time country star, but a real human with real emotions and stories. Urban was able to connect with his fans by imagining what we might be up to the morning after the concert. He talked about how we might wake up tomorrow at noon and cook Eggo waffles, which I imagine at least one person in the crowd did. Urban doesn’t take himself too seriously, evidenced by his lowering himself to the floor while lowering his voice and saying “how low can you go” and laughing while singing less serious songs. 

Everyone in the stadium was united when Urban’s crew turned off all the lights and encouraged everyone to light the stage with their phone flashlights. It was a special moment, and Urban talked about how we can’t do some things alone, but we can do them together. He also united the crowd when he had everyone sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”—one of my favorite moments of the night. Everyone knew the song (or could at least catch on quickly) and, soon, strangers became neighbors as we all sang together.

Another heartfelt moment of the night was when Urban gave a touching tribute to country icon Loretta Lynn through a slideshow of photos of her that played as he performed covers of Lynn’s “Blue Kentucky Girl” and “You’re Lookin’ At Country.” Urban and Lynn were friends, and Lynn passed away on Oct. 4.

When it was time for the concert to conclude, Urban went out with a bang, or rather, a poof. Colorful confetti shot out of dispensers and filled the stadium as he ended his last note, despite the audience not wanting to celebrate the concert ending. If you ever get the chance to see Keith Urban live, I strongly urge you to. Even if you don’t know Urban’s music and even if you’re not a big country fan, Urban’s bright energy and his passion for performing will still make for a very memorable night.