Friday, September 20, 2013

Keith Urban Lights A Fuse in Pittsburgh

Urban Goes Rural! 

Keith Urban - five times better than you think!

While The Inky Jukebox hung out in the parking lot before the Keith Urban show in Burgettstown, a roving reporter from the local country radio station ambled by and interviewed the older carload of fans nearby. He got them to cheer “Keith Urban Rocked!” into his mic for after the show, and when they declared they were Urban virgins, he said they were in for a treat.

He was right. It’s been three years since Urban was in this neck of the woods, and the locals were anxious to show him some love.

The Inky Jukebox has to take a step back for a moment and say that it was a long time before she could take Keith Urban seriously because he is so darn purdy-looking. But this show made her throw her hat in the ring, because that reporter was right: he rocked our asses off. For sheer professionalism, musicianship and fan appreciation, his show was the best of the year.


For a start, he opened his set by simply strolling out to center stage with the lights full on and backdrop still up, picked up a banjo and played an instrumental song. The crowd was caught unaware: usually the lights go down and background music hits the amps nice and loud. Once that song was done, the lights went down and when they came back on, the backdrop fell away to reveal a pretty great set: very simple, with a big bank of vertical screens.

He was in great form, delivering all the hits, and had plenty of interaction with the crowd, who were cold and wet. After spotting a sign he couldn’t read in the audience, he had the woman holding it come up on stage; it was a bride-to-be, and she wanted to sing a song with him — so she did. Pretty neat.

But that wasn’t the only way in which Urban went the extra mile to get among his fans. A smaller stage was set up over a section of seats at the far end of the pavilion near the lawn; it served as a fully miked and lit stage for several songs.

An intimate second stage
And if anyone left before the encore, they would have missed Urban’s second venture out into the crowd – this time slightly to the other side of the back of the pavilion, where he stood alone at a mic stand right amongst people to sing “You Look Good In My Shirt.” Afterwards, he signed and handed his electric guitar to a lucky fan.

Up close and personal!
Urban is a generous performer, too. He not only shared a song with each of his opening acts — Dustin Lynch and Little Big Town — but he gave each of his band members a turn in the spotlight to let them sing a bit of a cover song and play their instruments. This is what you can expect from a singer who is also the lead guitarist in his band.

Who thinks we're sexy? 

Little Big Town joined in
Speaking of which — wow. They say Urban is the best guitar player in country music and they have a point. A Go Pro camera fixed to the head of his guitar allowed the audience to see just what his hands were doing on the neck, which was a really nice touch for those of us who are curious to see.

Urban doesn’t only play guitars though — he did "Tonight I Wanna Cry" all alone on the piano too.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Biker Chic(k)

ZZ Top in Pittsburgh, September 7, 2013

If you have ever wondered where you can go to see a bald, mustachioed dude in a leather waistcoat and leather chaps, or a couple consisting of a middle-aged guy in a leather fedora and a petite teenager in thigh-high heels stumbling about clutching a cab of beer bigger than one of her thighs, or, as The Inky Jukebox's sweetheart noted, a whole lot of "slatterns," then you should check out a ZZ Top concert.

ZZ Top play slower than they used to, but just as powerfully, and they are legends.

"Tush" live. 'Nuff said. The Inky Jukebox danced and sang so hard her tush nearly fell off.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Justin Moore: Finger-Lickin’ Good

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, September 1st 2013

Justin Moore

“I want you to get your money’s worth,” Justin Moore joked to the crowd packed around the tiny stage outside Heinz Stadium’s scoreboard on Sunday night. Given that the concert was free, he added “You get what you pay for though, so I could have sucked!” The hoards laughed — it was funny because The Inky Jukebox can attest that his performance as part of the annual Rib Festival did not suck. Far from it: it was finger-lickin’, lip-smackin’ good.

Billed by the festival as a one-hour set, Moore in fact played for two. That’s value for money right there. And if you arrived on the scene during the set changeover (Drew Baldridge opened), you could snag a spot right up to the stage. By the time he came on (earlier than scheduled), it was filled with die-hard fans, only a few of which appeared to be from the actual country. 

If this had been a Burgettstown show, that would have been a very different demographic. Still, they were all boozed up and happy, crowd surfing and generally singing and hollering along to every single word. Hey — it was a free show on the banks of the Ohio on a hot summer night; parking was cheap, Heinz Field’s Steeler pavilion was open to the public, there was a vast array of world-class ribs available a few hundred feet away, and they came double-fisting big cans of beer.

From the stage the band’s view was the interior of a lit-up Heinz Field to one side and the downtown Pittsburgh skyline reflecting in the water to the other. Moore and the band delivered a set packed full of his hits, along with the crowd pleasers (“I Can Kick Your Ass”). 

He threw in some Randy Houser and Josh Thompson to advertize his upcoming tour, where they will be opening for him. He saved “Small Town USA” until the end, a sentimental favorite, after which the crowd gave a deafening chant — Justin…Justin…Justin, which morphed into USA…USA…USA. It was a moving moment; he hung his hat on his mic stand and crouched on the stage fighting back tears.

This intimate connection was furthered by Moore’s ad-libbing repartee with the crowd throughout his show. To the absolute delight of everyone, he threw in an acoustic version of “Grandpa,” which hadn’t been on the set list, but was requested at a meet-and-greet. 

This kind of interaction with his core base is what builds the kind of serious loyalty that fuels a long career.

In a twist from a regular encore (The Inky Jukebox had hoped and prayed for “Outlaw Like Me”), Moore came back out clad in a Steelers cap instead of his signature cowboy hat, alone, with an acoustic guitar, and proceeded to give a two-song preview of as-yet unheard songs from his upcoming album. They were great, especially “One Dirt Road,” which he indicated would be his next single. He peppered this with an impromptu medley of covers.

In case anyone has looked up which songs appear on the new album, The Inky Jukebox can reveal that “I'd Want It To Be Yours” is a humorous song about women’s bottoms. He literally played his way off the stage, spent.

“You get what you pay for,” he’d quipped earlier. We did: it was priceless.

Off The Beaten Path comes out September 17.