Last month, country hit-maker Keith Urban was in Toledo, Ohio, on a stop during his Graffiti U Tour. Before the show, there was someone he needed to visit.
Marissa English, his "number one fan," couldn't attend the concert, so Urban went to see her. English, 25, was born with an inoperable cyst on her brain and also suffers from scoliosis and cerebral palsy, according to news reports from Ohio. A group of her nurses began a social media campaign for Urban to visit her in the hospital.
Keith Urban’s Graffiti U Tour
Opening act: Kelsea Ballerini
7:30 p.m. today. Verizon Arena, 1 Verizon Arena Way, North Little Rock
Admission: $20, $40, $52, $97
He was happy to oblige.
"I found out more about her, and I wanted to get there early to spend some time with her and her family and all of the nurses who work so hard," the 51-year-old Urban says the day after the visit from his home in Nashville, Tenn. "I've been very blessed with my life, and those are the moments when we can help bring a little something for those people."
Tonight, Urban, who was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, brings his tour to Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. Kelsea Ballerini will open the show.
Fans should be ready for the long haul, he says.
"It's exhilarating, not only the production, but the length of it too. We started out playing 1 hour and 50 minutes and now it's maybe 2 hours and 15 minutes. It's grown over the tour as people have requested different songs and we've been tinkering with the set list."
In an age where big concerts are meticulously choreographed, Urban is constantly tweaking his show.
"A lot of it happens organically," he says. "For the song 'Stupid Boy,' I used to just play it on my acoustic guitar. One night, I messed around with a bluegrass, rhythmic thing and then I thought it would be great to have a little kick drum."
The result is a part of the set where Urban triggers a drum with his foot while playing guitar on the song.
"That's just one example of how our show has evolved," he says. "There are dozens of them."
Tonight's show will feature plenty of tracks from the Graffiti U album and a truckload of hits from throughout his career, which began in America with his self-titled, platinum-selling solo album from 1999.
Also, fans can get up close with the singer and multi-instrumentalist as the show features a smaller stage set up near the back of the arena.
"I've always done that," says Urban, who was a judge on Season 12 of American Idol. "Over the years, the way we've gotten out to those stages have ranged from swinging on things to stages that go through the audience. Now I just walk through the crowd to the satellite stage."
The main goal, he says, is to make the audience happy: "My singular job is to have everyone be totally free of concern for the entire time we're onstage."
Urban, who married actress Nicole Kidman in 2006, grew up in a country music-loving household in Caboolture, Queensland, Australia. He was just 5 when his father took him to his first concert, a rowdy show by Arkansas native Johnny Cash.
"I don't know what my dad was thinking," Urban says with a laugh. "The area I'm from is working class, rural, and when those people go to a concert, they're smashed by the time they get there. It was the craziest, wildest bunch of people. I'll never forget the roar of that crowd when this guy walks out onstage. That has stayed with me over the years."
Not long after that, at age 6, Urban started playing guitar. Now he has his own line of guitars and how-to DVDs sold on the Home Shopping Network and is still in love with playing.
"It's so funny, man, I don't feel any different than when I was a little kid at my mom and dad's house, 12-13 years old, with my electric guitar trying to get better at it," he says. "I have this ability to totally forget what I've done, in a good way. It's always new."
Weekend on 11/01/2018
Print Headline: Expect long night of 'organic' music at Urban show