Keith Urban came to Chicago, IL as part of The Speed Of Now Tour on Saturday evening (Sept. 24.) at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater. In his own words, the crowd was “rowdy, buzzed, rearing to go.”
The energy from the audience in the front row was just as intense as those all the way in the back, fueling the country-rock star’s fire. He played a career-spanning setlist featuring hits from his 2002 Golden Road album to his current highly requested single, “Brown Eyes Baby” and many more in between.
Before Urban stepped on stage, his opening acts Ingrid Andress and Tyler Hubbard got the fans warmed up for the night with their boot-stomping hits. Around 9 pm, it was time for the main event to commence. The venue went dark, and the intensity of the music slowly grew, letting fans know Keith Urban was about to take the stage.
He confidently emerged from the back of the smoke-filled stage as bright red lights flashed on the screens behind him, creating an electric atmosphere. Sporting casual jeans and a t-shirt, the singer made his way to the mic, building anticipation with each step. No elaborate wardrobe or eye-catching prop was necessary as the music and his stage presence alone were enough to keep the audience captivated for the entire two hours.
Urban opened the night with an offering from his current album that reflects the name of his tour, The Speed of Now Part 1. As soon as the crowd heard the opening lines of “Tumbleweed,” they instinctively jumped out of their seats and began singing right along with him. The spotlight hit the four-time Grammy winner just as the chorus broke and the tempo sped up, leaving fans no time to process what was unfolding before them.
He then took a moment to address the 28,000-capacity venue, welcoming his midwestern fans to The Speed Of Now tour. In sharing his expectations for the night, he gave his word that this wouldn’t be just a regular concert, it would be an out-of-this-world escapade.
After checking in with those around him that he could clearly see, the “Nightfalls” singer pulled out his binoculars to get a look at the crowd that was less visible in the back lawn section, ensuring no one felt left out.
While acknowledging those sitting further away, he also did a bit of foreshadowing as he announced he would be heading their way later on in the night to play a few songs on a pop-up stage. Now that he had everyone’s attention, Urban also shared his mission for the night.
“For the next two hours, my promise to you is that I’m going to do everything I can to make a utopian existence in here tonight at the Hollywood Casino. My job is to make sure that every one of you forgets about your life outside of this place right now. Whatever’s going on out there, whatever stresses or worries, bills and grievances, and people that just piss you off, it is not happening in here tonight, Chicago,” he said before going into a fan-favorite off his 2016 Ripcord record, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.”
For an artist who’s famous for his guitar licks, it was no surprise that Urban took every chance he got to show off his skills as his own lead guitar player. He found just about every use for his instrument, playing it upside down, backward, and even while lying down. His bandmates matched his energy and skill level as they each were given their own moment to shine throughout the show.
Following his performance of “Long Hot Summer,” which Urban revealed he wrote just outside of Chicago with Richard Marx, he announced that they were approaching track nine. This meant that it was time for another tradition on the tour, where he spins a virtual wheel using an oversized red lever that’s brought onto the stage. The wheel contains a list of songs and whatever it lands on, he and his band have to play it next.
“Track nine is when every night, we play something random. A song that you guys maybe wanna hear, ‘cause we’ve got a lot of songs,” he explained before joking that if they played every song in the catalog, they would be there until at least Tuesday. This earned a roar of excitement from the crowd who appeared hopeful that the night really would last for an extended duration.
On this night, the wheel landed on “Never Comin Down,” a track off his 2018 project, Graffiti U. After playing this song like it was a nightly occurrence, never missing a single beat, the Australian singer went on to perform a few more uplifting tracks including, “Somewhere In My Car,” “God Whispered Your Name,” “You Look Good In My Shirt,” and “One Too Many,” which featured a pre-recorded appearance from Pink to sing her part of the duet. He was later “joined” by Carrie Underwood in the same virtual fashion to sing their collaborative track, “The Fighter.”
Throughout the night, his performances were backed by colorful, emotional, and personal visuals, and a few loud airhorns for an added effect. One of the most thrilling moments of the show came when Urban made his way down the side of the stage and up towards the back row, as he had teased earlier.
The rain was coming down hard around the small stage that was waiting for him, but he embraced it like a pro and even related it to the experience of a baptism. “I ain’t scared of the rain,” he said.
Fans surrounded him in utter disbelief at their proximity to the superstar as he played an acoustic set of “Better Life” and “You’ll Think Of Me.” Before leaving, he made one last gesture as he gave away his signed guitar to a fan who was in shock to be getting a souvenir and a hug from Urban.
He then made his way back to the main stage to sing his twangy anthem, “Somebody Like You,” which he followed with a seamless transition into “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”
With the show nearing its end, Urban performed what fans thought to be his last song of the night, “Wasted Time.” Smoke and confetti filled the crowd as he finished the song, raised his guitar to the heavens, and walked off stage…momentarily.
But no amount of rain, cold winds, or inevitable traffic jams could convince fans to leave early. In fact, it’s likely that the venue would have stayed packed if Urban had the desire to play all night long. Fans remained standing and began chanting Urban’s name until he returned for the inevitable encore.
“You’re still here? Don’t wanna go home?” he asked as he started playing the final song of the night, “Stupid Boy.”
With one final blow of the air horn, Urban joined hands with his band mates, took a well-deserved bow, and called it a night. By the end of his two-hour set, there’s no doubt that his promise was fulfilled, and fans’ expectations were met, if not exceeded.
The Speed of Now World Tour acts as Keith Urban’s first tour in about four years. His concert on Saturday evening (Sept. 24) marked another stop on his trek that will continue through the beginning of November. Tickets for upcoming shows are available HERE.