Keith Urban 

Verizon Arena, Aug. 6

URBAN: Guitar superstar.
  • URBAN: Guitar superstar.

That the superstar on stage Thursday night at Verizon Arena is every bit as talented pounding out licks on a guitar as he is delivering great vocals of his chart-topping hits — many of which he writes — is no urban legend.

But if he keeps putting on shows like this, Keith Urban, who paid tribute to the legendary Marty Robbins during a recent TV special, just may go down as one of country music's most renowned entertainers himself. You won't get any argument from the 10,315 fans who watched him expand many of his songs beyond their radio edits to highlight his prowess on the guitar.

That instrumental excellence may be taken for granted on his CDs, but there's no missing it in concert. When he's on stage Urban clearly demonstrates what he can do with a guitar, whether it's slow or fast, electric or acoustic, or even throbbing with neon lights. And, of course, country fans already know what he can do with that voice. Combine the two and it's easy to see why he's enjoyed accolades like three Country Music Association male vocalist awards and Entertainer of the Year in '05.

Take the love-gone-wrong ballad “You'll Think of Me,” with its catchy lyrics (“take your cat and leave my sweater, 'cause we have nothing left to weather) and vocals that get more forceful as the song goes on. Or his latest single, the tender “Only You Can Love Me This Way.” Or the upbeat “Somebody Like You.” Guitar-driven pop country doesn't get much better than this.

An energetic entertainer, Urban not only plays to the crowd (at one point sporting a Razorback jersey), he also plays in the crowd. He made his way to a small stage in the back where he set up shop and asked, “Who's got the good seats now?” Later, he finished a fun, hard-driving “You Look Good in My Shirt” surrounded by fans a few rows up on one side of the arena.

Along the way, he rolled through his hits, including “Sweet Thing,” “Days Go By,” “Kiss a Girl” and “Making Memories of Us.”

Sugarland, purveyors of rock-infused country (at one point the duo covered Pearl Jam), opened the show with a fast-paced parade of their hits, including “Want To,” “Already Gone,” “Settlin' ”and “All I Want to Do,” that showcased Jennifer Nettles' big voice and the supporting harmonies of Kristian Bush.


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