Keith Urban reveals the gold standard for performing at the Tyson Center

October 8, 2016

SIOUX CITY | Keith Urban wore work boots at the Tyson Events Center Friday night.

Good thing, too.

The Grammy winner worked harder than most artists, playing a host of instruments, bouncing around the stage and inviting a group of “Iowa girls” to the stage to show how shovel-ready he really is.

Offering plenty of cuts from his latest album, “Ripcord,” Urban opened in the shadows, bathed in streams of light. Quickly, he moved to the center of his stage and rolled through “Long Hot Summer,” “Break on Me,” “Where the Blacktop Ends” and “Somewhere in My Car” before lighting on “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” a retro-sounding song that took advantage of his aggressive lighting design.

While much of his set was at the cutting edge of contemporary music (you could even see a little J. Lo staging here and there), it was the old-school musicianship that really impressed. Urban started with a banjo, moved to guitar and amazed on strings as much as he did on the microphone.

While a workshirt (over a white T-shirt) and old-school jeans suggested a working class man, the 48-year-old is probably as one-of-kind as musicians get. He has a rock edge on his country twang.

Aided by a great backup band, he made old songs sound new, new songs sound classic. (The hard-edged arrangement for “Days Go By” sounded like it was just released to radio.)

Urban gave wide berth, too, to his openers, Brett Eldredge and Maren Morris, pulling them into his world and letting them benefit from his day well spent.

Morris, who joined him for “We Were Us,” has the kind of fire under her that Urban enjoyed when he opened for Kenny Chesney. Both nominated for lots of Country Music Association Awards, they’re a great duo and should consider recording together.

She opened the show and didn’t waste any time. Wearing leather shorts, an oh-so-revealing green shirt and boot heels, she strutted with confidence around the stage offering some fascinating (though PG-13) cuts from her first CD.

Her voice reached Carrie-level highs; her songs had Kacey Musgraves reality checks. Her “Sugar” had an inviting quality that introduced her nicely. She rolled through the catchy “’80s Mercedes,” played sassy with “Rich” and closed with her first big hit, “My Church.”

Backed by a great band (they were able to make sounds groups twice the size can’t), the 26-year-old Texan announced herself much the same way Urban did when he first played Sioux City. She’s a keeper.

More familiar to Sioux City audiences, Eldredge showed more of his “boots” side since the “Suits and Boots” tour with Thomas Rhett. More energetic this time around, he repeated his “light the stadium” firefly moment and got good mileage out of “You Can’t Stop Me” and “Wanna Be that Song.”

While songs like “Lose My Mind” and “Fire” can move a crowd, they didn’t have the punch of something like “Don’t Ya.” He gave the latter plenty of charm and warmed the crowd nicely for Urban.

Ever the schmoozer, Eldredge threw flowers into the audience, got some video screen action and even tried to turn his guitarists into Rhett-ready dancers.

He was looser Friday night.

Urban, though, was the gold standard, showing his young charges just how an artist keeps audience members out of their seats and ready for anything.