Everything about a Keith Urban concert seems so meticulously planned — right down to the last wristband toss into the crowd at the end of the night — that the most memorable elements are when the seasoned performer does a little improv.
Stopping to take a breath after the first four songs, the Aussie country singer scanned the crowd for the best homemade signs (“I Look Good in Your Shirt,” “Kiss This Girl”) — and the bright orange poster that name-dropped his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, caught his attention. “ ‘Nicole Says It’s Ok For You to Kiss Me’?” said Urban, who boasts an enviable collection of Grammys and No. 1 songs, as he grinned to the thousands packed into Verizon Center on Thursday night.
Urban invited the sign-holder onstage and planted a kiss on her cheek. “This is a friendly town, eh?” he said as he posed for a picture with the dazed recipient. “Thanks again for checking with my wife.”
The District did indeed seem receptive to Urban, who barely stopped again to chat as he happily rocked through 20 songs in two hours. Famous for his dizzying guitar skills, all of Urban’s bouncy, jubilant songs about how awesome it is to be in love (“Put You in a Song,” “Sweet Thing,” “Somebody Like You,” “Kiss a Girl”) seemed to run together. Rarely straying from his well-worn hits, Urban often pointed the microphone in the direction of the audience to sing lyrics or entire choruses.
The exception being “ ’Til Summer Comes Around,” the achingly sad, Grammy-winning ballad about pining for a summer love to return that provided one of the evening’s more intense moments.
Urban also kept the covers to a minimum, venturing into other artists’ song territory only when they were woven through his own. The beginning of Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs” led into the sweet, made-for-a-first-dance “Making Memories of Us,” and he tacked on part of Little Big Town’s “Boondocks” at the end of his new, hopeful tune “You Gonna Fly.”
Still, the unrehearsed moments were the best. While singing “You Look Good in My Shirt” on a small platform at the side of the arena, the microphone flew out of his hand into the crowd. Urban looked momentarily startled, then threw his head back and laughed, waving his arms like a crazed concert conductor to get audience members to help. It wasn’t necessary — they were already singing along.