Urban rocks, Swift delights at Garden

A review of Keith Urban, Taylor Swift at the TD Garden on July 31, 2009

, Editor-in-Chief

They are both rooted in Nashville, but Keith Urban and Taylor Swift are far from your typical country music stars. Both are crossover acts that appeal to a wide range of fans – Urban thanks to his rocking guitar-fueled anthems and Swift with her soaring girl-power pop hits. The two teamed up on Friday night as part of Urban’s "Escape Together" tour to deliver one of the summer’s most memorable shows before a soldout crowd at the TD Garden.

Opening with "Hit The Ground Runnin’", the first of a handful of tunes off his new album Defying Gravity, Urban did just that and got the crowd going early. An electrifying rendition of "Days Go By" preceded "Stupid Boy", which featured the first of a handful blistering solos from Urban. Remarkable fretwork from the Aussie star highlighted most of the best moments of his two-hour set. You don’t have to be country to appreciate Urban, just watch the man play his guitar.

Urban made it a point to get up front and close with the adoring crowd, often using the trio of mini-catwalks that descended from the stage to the floor in front of the stage. During "You’re My Better Half" he walked through the perimeter of the floor while playing (as numerous fans patted him on the back) before taking place atop a small stage at the opposite end of the rink. "Who’s got the good seats now?!" Urban cracked before launching into solo electric rendition of "Once In A Lifetime" (only aided by a percussionist playing the congos at the main stage). Remaining on the b-stage, Urban strapped on his acoustic guitar and delivered "Making Memories of Us" and "Only You Can Love Me This Way" with his band joining him from the main stage.

It was then that Urban delivered the most shocking news of the night: he nearly missed the show! Vacationing in Italy with his wife (actress Nicole Kidman), Urban was scheduled to arrive in Boston at noon but was delayed till 7:30. "So, I’m flying high," he joked. With that in mind, one would not be surprised if Urban just mailed in the show from that point. Instead, he kept the energy flowing at a high pace while showing no signs of fatigue.

From tender ballads such as "You’ll Think Of Me" to more rocking anthems like "Where The Blacktop Ends", the flow of the show was never stagnant nor too rigid. Urban’s backing band was a tight five piece (at times powered up to 3 additional guitarist) that was on top of their game. They provided a solid rhythmic foundation, swell harmonies, and complimented, or in many cases challenged, Urban’s guitar playing. He took time to introduce and thank each of his bandmates – many of whom took time to deliver the chorus of a classic rock hit (including Boston’s "More Than A Feeling").

Strumming on a electric guitar that was adorned in LED lights, Urban walked through the crowd and set up shop atop a seat in the loge section to deliver a fun "You Look Good In My Shirt". Returning to the main stage, he closed the main set with a sing-along of fan favorite "Somebody Like You". Urban returned for a two song encore that perfectly summarized the show and the artist. First came a riveting acoustic rendition of the emotional "Tonight I Wanna Cry". After sincerely thanking everyonein the arena (from the roadies to the fans who spent their hard earned money in tough times), Urban plugged back in for a rocking run though "Better Life".

The word "believe" was plastered across the video screens at the end of closing song. It’s a message that Urban clearly believes in and wants to pass along to others. He has battled demons of alcohol and substance abuse that plunged him into very dark and troubling times but was able to defy the odds, take charge of his life, and forge ahead with a new outlook on life (and some great tunes too). The attitude shows in his performance and his gratefulness to his family and fans, with whom he took several minutes to shake hands with in front of the stage at the end of the show.

Having the #1 selling artist in all of music opening the show was certainly an added bonus. Taking a few dates off of her own headlining tour, Swift is joining Urban for a handful of shows this summer. Taking stage promptly at 7:30, fans were still running (literally) to the seats as she belted out opener "You Belong With Me".

Swift, clad in a sparkling black/grey sequence dress (she later changed into a red version), then moved onto her smash hit "Our Song", enticing the first of several deafening sing-alongs. "Well, Hello Boston Massachusetts! I’m Taylor," she said – as if the crowd needed any introduction. What followed, for the good or the bad, was a one-hour set comprised of various aspects of her current headlining tour.

There were a few hiccups, most notably that her solid 6-piece band (plus 1 back-up singer) drowned out Swift’s vocals, which have never been her strongest asset. A short video interview that introduced "Forever And Always" talked about it being her first headlining tour when she was still the opening act. And extending "Should’ve Said No" to feature a sloppy drum off of sorts (on barrels) simply did not work.

That being said, Swift was very much on top of her game. An acoustic take on "White Horse" (only aided by two back-up vocalists) was splendid, "Love Story" was a delightful pop-rocking favorite for the girls in the house, and her breakthrough ballad "Tim McGraw" was followed by a roaring ovation that left her speechless. Swift also re-worked a few songs to work better in the live setting. Taking a seat at her piano, Swift delivered "Your’re Not Sorry" while surprisingly tagging on a few verses of Justin Timberlake’s "What Goes Around". It was a gamble, but one that was welcomed by the crowd, sounded better than expected, and invigorated the song with a new vibe (complete with some intense hair whipping).

Swift closed out her opening set with a rocking run through "Picture To Burn", enough to leave every fan wanting more. Fans can find that when she brings her own headlining tour to Mogehan Sun Casino in Connecticut next month, her only scheduled New England show thus far. There has never been any doubt about Swift’s talented songwriting abilities and with some more time on the road, the 19-year old should be able to make progress on her live shows too.

Leave a Reply