Sunday, December 28, 2008

Keith Urban, redux

Junior’s been itching to get to the Grand Old Opry ever since we moved to Lebanon almost three years ago. This weekend we finally got there, and better yet (in one sense), it was back at the Ryman Auditorium, the downtown location associated with this country music institution for so many years. As it happened we lucked out with the bill: Julianne Hough and Keith Urban.

Keith Urban was utterly charming. For one thing he wasn’t in ratty blue jeans and a t-shirt. He actually wore a button-down shirt and what looked like, dare I say it, a comfortably worn pair of jeans sans tears and holes. (I suspect Nicole’s influence). But that’s not the charming part—simply an improvement in appearance, in my opinion.

The Ryman is actually an “intimate” setting, at least compared to stadiums and the like where so many concerts take place these days, and considerably smaller than the current Opry venue. The Ryman holds about 2000 people on two levels.

When Keith came on stage he told the audience that his wife’s family is in town for the holidays, and she told him it would be lovely if they could all go to the Opry while they were here. Could he call them up and ask if he could perform? (Is that cute or what?) He did, they said yes.

After his first song (he played solo, no backup band, just Keith and his guitar), a member of the audience lifted his three-year-old daughter up onto the stage to offer Keith a rose and a little stuffed monkey. Keith thought this was really cute and started to talk to her. She got shy and turned away, so Keith bent down to be at her level and tried again, asking her name. She would have none of it, so her father replied, “Ellie.” Without missing a beat Keith said, “Wow, Ellie, you have such a deep voice.” He continued to try to engage her, but to no avail. Sweet, sweet moment.

He then asked if there was a stool that he could sit on for the next number, and a woman near the front of the stage called out, “you can sit on my lap!” He laughed good-naturedly, then after a stool was offered settled into “Making Memories of Us,” which he dedicated to Nicole (somewhere out there in the audience).

He had planned two songs, the standard Opry set, but the host for his half-hour invited him to sing a third. He asked the audience for suggestions, and people shouted out all kinds of ideas. “Well, that was a mistake," he chuckled. He finally settled on “Somebody Like You,” and launched into it with full audience participation, country style. You know, like when he gets to the chorus he stops singing and the audience continues on for him? At about the third time around of that the audience was in full swing, and they imitated his “you-uuu-uuu-uu-uu-uu” with such vigor that he broke up laughing. In fact, he was laughing so hard that he couldn’t collect himself to pick up the next verse. He stopped and laughed. Tried again. Laughed. It was the greatest thing.

Not to slight Julianne Hough, who is utterly adorable, she did a great job as well, but her performance just didn't have that added personal touch. We'll cut her some slack, she's new at this (and since we adore her anyway, it doesn't matter). We also had a little fun prior to the start of the show. Our seats were in the last row downstairs, on the far right, just in front of the WSM radio booth. When we got there a guy was inside being interviewed. People (okay, women) kept coming up to the booth to take pictures through the window. Trisha and I kept wondering who the guy was. Turns out it was Chuck Wicks, to which we replied, "who?" We learned when we came onstage that he sings "Stealing Cinderella." Oh! That guy! (Hey, he's a newcomer, not recognizing his name is okay). More fun was that Julianne also came into the booth and sat on his lap for a laugh. All ten feet away from us.

The only disappointment was that my colleague, Stu Phillips, was slated to be on the program last night but was a last minute cancel (well, somebody had to give up a slot to make room for Keith!). He has offered repeatedly to have us come to the Opry as his guests and come backstage. Bummer that of all nights when it would have been such fun to do that we couldn’t! I think I’ll give him a good ribbing next time I see him, which may, in fact, be today.

The kids are still asleep as I write this, and pictures are in Trisha’s camera, so I’ll try to post those later. In the meantime I'm enjoying thinking back on a fun evening and savoring the memory.

Happy Sunday, it sure is in this house!

1 comment:

Jayne said...

What a fun sounding evening! I am sure it was so enjoyable. I love Julianne on Dancing with the Stars, and I am sure she's just as cute in person. So glad it was such a great time. Can't wait to see the photos.

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