Sold-out Urban show a celebration of life
When a pop musician makes it through dark times, the standard postrecovery stance is to either go more somber and introspective or take a cynical, black-humored approach. Not Keith Urban. After going through addiction, rehab, and recovery, he’s just glad to have come out on the other side fully intact, and last night’s sold-out concert at the TD Garden continued the country star’s celebration of life and the fact that he’s been given the chance to keep living it.
That’s not to say that he couldn’t turn the camera back on himself. But even with the aching self-castigation of a song like “Stupid Boy,’’ Urban’s lyrical guitar solo capped it off with something resembling ecstasy, albeit the pained kind. Those guitar heroics belied the easy categorization of the singer as a country heartthrob, and he displayed ample chops, whether slow and mournful in “’Til Summer Comes Around’’ or speedy and spirited like “Where the Blacktop Ends,’’ which featured a solo seemingly yanked from 1980s hair metal.
Urban probably wouldn’t have been recognized as a country artist had he first appeared during that decade. Instead, he’d have been tagged a generous heartland rocker and placed maybe a rung below John Mellencamp.
It wasn’t a full twang in his voice as much as a simple catch, and it made anthems like “Sweet Thing’’ and “Kiss a Girl’’ shimmer. “Once in a Lifetime’’ found him on a stage out in the audience, playing an electric chug without the assistance of his band and not missing a beat.
Urban’s career timeline being what it is, not all of his songs were informed by his recent circumstances, of course, but his demeanor certainly was. About halfway through the show, he tore into “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me’’ with a joyful solo and an ebullience that couldn’t be denied. It was hard to imagine anybody else that Urban wanted to be right then.
Taylor Swift’s opening set underscored the sneaking suspicion that her megasuccess is a triumph of marketing over talent. From the way the music was big, loud, and empty enough to drown out her thin, marginal voice to the way she played guitar, threw her hair around, and struck poses with such mechanical dispassion that you could practically see her counting off the blocking in her head, she looked like nothing so much as a little girl playing the part of a big country star.