When chart topping expatriate Australasian country superstar Keith Urban first played in Melbourne he drew about 30 fans at the now defunct Prince Patrick honky tonk in Collingwood.

The black shirted, inner suburban crowd thought he was too country and the country fans deemed he was too rocky.
Urban, born in New Zealand and raised at rural Caboolture in Queensland, had just launched the first of four albums.
Veteran PBS DJ David Heard and an older man - this writer - interviewed the singer on High In The Saddle at RRR-FM in Fitzroy about his career that started in a school band with Scared Weird Little Guy Rusty Rich and little sister Sherry.

Airplay was scarce then on Australian radio - and hasn't improved in a decade with the exception of ABC and community stations. But with a swag of hits in the U.S. - the biggest music market in the western world - the hot shot singer, guitarist and songwriter is white hot.

And now, more than a decade down the hype highway, Keith Urban is returning as a hero to play a national tour with support act - Texan tigress Leann Rimes.

The choice of venues - the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne - is a major elevation for both artists.


Urban, now 35, skirted Melbourne in his live gigs here with The Ranch although the band showed amazing agility to leap the Leader Newspaper car park fence at the Nu Country studios on Beer Can Hill in the inner Melbourne suburb of Northcote on an historic off air visit.

Keith's top shelf band did an interview and station IDS between gigs in the Aussie country music heart land beyond the city limits. This time around Urban, whose articulate patter upstaged pop peers at various ARIA Awards shows, is taking a punt on drawing a crowd equal to his talent.

You can expect Urban's high profile romance with super model and video star Nikki Taylor and historic battles with substance abuse to win him exposure to counter the lack of airplay.


Ms Rimes played The Palais - where her Sony record company minder Sam Laws had to hide his cigarettes behind her cardboard cut-out in a 1997 post gig party - at the majestic bayside theatre.

The publicity campaign will play down the singer's deep country roots and try to cash in on their celebrity status.

This will be aided by a massive TV advertising and variety show blitz and print media onslaught to counter the lack of commercial airplay.

Ms Rimes, who broke here on TV at 13 with the Bill Mack tune 'Blue,' will benefit from huge success of the 'Coyote Ugly' movie and her recent pop album 'Twisted Angel.'
Twisted Angel featured Tina Arena song 'You Made Me Find Myself' - one of a batch of Arena songs cut by artists diverse as Wynonna Judd and Canadian star Terri Clark.
Rimes, who made the first of seven albums at 11, also starred in the ABC-TV movie 'Holidays In Your Heart' in 1997.

Ms Rimes, who turns 21 on August 29, will be easy to market.


Leann reportedly split from actor fiance Andrew Keegan because he became involved with Coyote Ugly star Piper Perabo - who borrowed Rimes voice in the movie - on the set of 'Piece Of My Heart.'

She has also sued her father and former manager Wilbur for $14.3 million, her record label Curb and won a court case against a former bodyguard and personal trainer who became a stalker and tried to extort $2 million from her.

Leann had a hit with the Dianne Warren song 'How Do I Live,' which was sung by Georgian superstar Trisha Yearwood in the movie 'Con Air.'

Rimes recorded four songs for Coyote Ugly against doctor's orders to rest her voice.
"It's just been one crazy wild ride this year," said Rimes, who was forced to cancel a summer concert tour.

A strained right vocal cord was the reason given. She later conceded her ailments were more serious.

Rimes wanted to include Diane Warren's 'Please Remember' on an album but Warren told her that producer Jerry Bruckheimer was using it for Coyote Ugly.

"So when I went over to Jerry and they didn't have anybody for the soundtrack yet, I'm like, 'I really, really would like to do this song,' and he said, 'OK,'" she said in a telephone interview from her Los Angeles home.

Warren's string of hits includes How Do I Live. Trisha Yearwood sang it in 1997's Con Air after Bruckheimer scrapped Rimes' version.

"It was all sort of interesting. Things come back full circle. It's business," Rimes said at the time.

Yearwood got the Grammy; Rimes got the sales. Her version of How Do I Live sold 3 million copies and was on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for 69 consecutive weeks.


Urban won't be as nervous as he was on his last annual visit to catch up with his folks in Queensland. Keith beat a U.S. deportation attempt that could have cost him more than $1 million in earnings from live concerts and CD and DVD sales.

Urban was targeted by immigration authorities on his return to the U.S. after creating a record by topping prestige U.S. Billboard country singles charts for seven weeks with 'Somebody Like You.'

The song was later featured in box office smash movie 'How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days.'
Urban, who has lived in the U.S. for a decade, revealed the deportation attempt at a New Year concert in Nashville.

"I've got to give a quick thanks to the INS - that's the Immigration and Naturalisation Service," Urban revealed to fans at the concert, "I was this close to getting sent back to Australia last night."

Urban, wearing a Bocephus T-shirt and jeans with "Happy" and "New Year" painted down the front of the legs, made his revelation while supporting fellow chart topper Kenny Chesney.

His second No 1 hit, 'Somebody Like You,' pushed sales of fourth CD 'Golden Road' to more than 500,000 and landed him the Chesney national tour.

He moved to Nashville in 1992 with his Australian manager Greg Shaw who mowed lawns until Urban landed a deal with Garth Brooks record company, Capitol.

Brooks based his alter ego rock persona Chris Gaines on Urban and hired him to play on his live album in New York. Urban's publisher is fellow expatriate New Zealand born entrepreneur Barry Coburn who ran the Spurs cowboy bar circuit in Melbourne, Geelong and Canberra in the early eighties.

We'll run new interviews with Urban and Rimes when they become available - check out Nu Country TV on Channel 31 after October 4 for their video clips.

Brisbane Entertainment Centre - October 22
Newcastle Entertainment Centre - October 23
Wollongong Entertainment Centre - October 25
Sydney Entertainment Centre - October 26
Rod Laver Arena - Melbourne - October 28
Adelaide Entertainment Centre - October 29

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