Keith Urban Had Almost All the Right Moves at RodeoHouston

Keith Urban doing what he loves most with his guitar.
Keith Urban doing what he loves most with his guitar. Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
Keith Urban
NRG Stadium
March 15, 2K18

Keith Urban could never be an A-level popstar, even though he has all the tools necessary to be one. He’s got the looks, the charm, and the musical chops—everything you could hope for, really, to make it in the modern music industry—but the dude just loves tearing up the guitar a little too much to ever really find a home in the world of pop’s elite. And that’s OK, because it just means he’s available every few years to show up and spend the night at RodeoHouston, much to his fans’ delight.

Keith Urban has never met a groove he didn’t mind falling into. Multiple times over the course of the night he’d let his band find a few bars to work through on repeat while he worked his magic on the guitar or riffed on different lyric ideas that popped into his head. Credit to anyone that can work up a version of “Deep in the Heart of Texas” that sounds good and doesn’t end with 70,000 plus people clapping in unison.

Keith Urban’s music has the tropes you except in country music—time spent outdoors and ample alcohol consumption, to name a few—but his sound is so rooted in pop music that it really makes him stand out against the lineup of artists playing this year’s rodeo. With a keyboard player operating a device out of a Daft Punk show, interesting keyboard flourishes and a dash of electronic drum beats, it was among the most musically interesting of this year’s RodeoHouston performances.

Keith Urban puts a lot of thought into his performances, and it’s appreciated. He looked right at home on one of the star platforms as the new hanging camera tracked across the stadium, presenting him at his most cinematic as he expressed himself through the medium of guitar solo. The show’s presentation never felt huge, but that seemed to be the point; intimacy is a hard thing to pull of in a stadium, and he got about as much as he could from the situation.

Keith Urban put on a solid show, with an ending that had me in stitches. Rather than have his band play him off and into the night, the entire group hopped into the back of a pickup truck, air horns in hand, to head out of the stadium making noise. For some reason, they choose to use The 1975 as their exit music. I want to think there’s a deep meaning there, a guy just a little too indulgent musically to be A-level and a band just a little too indulgent musically to break into the mainstream, but hell, sometimes you just have to let the magic of the rodeo unfold as it does.

All of that said, Keith Urban wrote a song about Texas that name drops Dallas and Austin but not Houston, and no matter how charismatic he is, that’s a problem, but one he still has time to fix. Do the right thing, Keith, or at least change the lyrics when you come back for your eighth RodeoHouston show.

Personal Bias: For weeks now I’ve been saying that I was reviewing Karl Urban at the rodeo, even though I know better. Those names are just so close, you know? In any case, my favorite Karl Urban movies are Dread and The Chronicles of Riddick.

The Crowd: 72,564 strong. Not quite as loud as other crowds this year, but they hide some pipes on them and harmonized well.

Mutton Bustin’ Update, Day 17: A few more tears than normal, but all in all a pretty good showing for the kids this evening. The winner said that she wants to teach kids how to ride sheep when she grows up, which is about as noble a profession as I can think up.

Random Notebook Dump: You know, I’m willing to look past the tone deafness of the whole Astrodome thing if it means cleaning up some of the traffic snarls that come along with RodeoHouston. I don’t see how that’ll happen, but if it did, that would be cool.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia