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According to legend (or maybe he made it up himself), James Brown was the hardest-working man in show business. But since he has left the building, Keith Urban has great credentials to claim the title.

He proved it all night long Thursday for 11,558 fans at North Little Rock's Verizon Arena, one of the best rock concerts ever seen there.

Some consider Urban country, but anyone who was there would probably dispute such a limiting categorization. Urban delivered a full-tilt rock performance, comparable to Bruce Springsteen and U2. He and his equally hardworking four-man band blazed through nearly 30 songs at a pace that seldom slowed over nearly 2½ hours.

He opened with "Never Comin' Down," an apt choice, and then tore into "Days Go By" (with its sage advice "We talk about forever but we've only got today"). Other choice greatest hits: "You Gonna Fly," "The Fighter" (a duet with Carrie Underwood, projected on a giant screen), "Somebody Like You," "Stupid Boy" and, of course, "Blue Ain't Your Color."

One of his new songs, "Female," stood out, as did his duet on "We Were Us" with his opening act, Kelsi Ballerini. Other great moments: "Put You in a Song," "Love the Way It Hurts (So Good)," "Wasted Time" and the songs ("Wade in the Water" and "Where the Blacktop Ends") he did with a new young female partner, Larkin Poe.

Somehow, an encore was part of Urban's design for a memorable evening, starting with him introducing one of his guitars as having been owned by Waylon Jennings, plus an explanation as to how the song "But for the Grace of God" was his first hit. The finale was another new one, "Horses."

Some of the theatrical elements -- lasers, lights, shape-shifting projection screens, color and black-and-white imagery -- would have been right at home in a Roger Waters/Pink Floyd concert.

Urban, 51, looks like a young Tom Petty and obviously loves his work and his musicians; he not only introduced the guys in the band but let them show out on song fragments. And at one point, making his way offstage and through the crowd, he performed at the arena's far end, and then pulled an audience member on the stage, wiped off his guitar, signed it and gave it to her.

Opening act Ballerini got a generous 45-minute set and was a sparkly delight. Her song, "Miss Me More," was an impressive selection; so was her cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide."

It was not surprising that as fans were filing out, Urban was still kneeling on the stage, signing posters and things. What a guy.

Metro on 11/03/2018

Print Headline: Hardworking Urban goes all out for crowd

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