The Geezinslaw Bros describe it as bad rock 'n roll - country frocked up in muddy rock mixes.

That's what Keith Urban suffered when he opened for LeAnn Rimes in the cavernous canyon of this titanic tennis stadium.

Urban's entrée - his latest U.S. No 1 hit, Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me - and second song were indecipherable.

Nary a word could be heard under the gaudy guitar and drum deluge.

But I've since learned the second song was You Look Good In My Shirt.

Sure, it was a scorching version but he and audience deserved to benefit from a decent vocal mix.

By the time he reached Darrel Brown-Radney Foster tune Raining On Sunday the sound mixer located his voice - an essential ingredient of You Won, an evocative tune co-written with Rodney Crowell.

It was perfect for Slim Dusty tribute Pub With No Beer and a co-write with Go-Gos gals Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffrey on the hit But For The Grace Of God featuring Jason Mowrey on fiddle.

And the Chris Lindsey-Bob Regan wedding hit Your Everything, replete with Dollywood anecdote.

Urban revealed that when he decamped from his tour bus at Dolly Parton's theme park he heard his huge hit being played at a wedding in a little country church.

"I took my guitar to the church, told the bride's father at the door I was the guy singing it and then did it for them live," Urban joked.

"I only charged them $2000. No, actually $1500."

Urban, 36, then confessed he, of course, performed gratis.

A pleasant surprise was the countrification of ancient David Dundas hit Jeans On that seemed out of place on Urban's huge selling fourth album, Golden Road.

Urban reprised his Ranch song, Walkin' The Country, and Mowrey's fiddle adorned yet another hit, Where The Black Top Ends.

Timing was perfect - the fiery finale was chart topping smash hit Somebody Like You.
The banjo-drenched belter was the highlight of a performance that promised so much but drowned in the horrific sound mix of the early songs.

Urban received a well deserved, thundering ovation for his guitartistry and showmanship but when you have a voice distinctive as Urban it's criminal to have it buried.

LeAnn Rimes had no such problems - she was pitch perfect from entrée One Way Ticket to show-stopping finale Over The Rainbow.

She telegraphed her punches from biographical Life Goes On and Wound Up - tunes she wrote for huge selling ninth album Twisted Angel.

Rimes has broadened her music but covered all bases - from Cline like delivery of Willie Nelson's classic Crazy to Dianne Warren penned Can't Fight The Moonlight and But I Do Love You from Coyote Ugly.

This ballad stanza ended with embryonic Bill Mack penned hit Blue and Warren weeper How Do I Live, cut by Trisha Yearwood in the Con Air movie but a Rimes hit.

Rimes pacing was impeccable - she revved up a cover of Janis Joplin song Summertime, new single We Can from Legally Blonde 2, and Big Deal.

This segued into a tumultuous trilogy of Kristofferson hit, Me & Bobby McGee, Twisted Angel title track and riveting rendition of Commitment.

Rimes maturity peaked as she encored with a solo stool rendition of "one of my favourite all time songs" - Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

Rimes, just 21, proved to be a mistress of her art.

She dominated centre stage, with minimal accompaniment on her ballads, and rocked out with a hot band that never drowned out her powerful vocals on up-tempo material.

Such professionalism ensured she endeared herself to an enthusiastic audience with large bevy of boys who haven't met the right girl yet and girls who haven't met the right boy yet. - DAVID DAWSON

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