URBAN, THE WAIFS - ROD LAVER ARENA - 18 MAY 2007
Urban - Live at Rod Laver Arena - 18 May 2007
Photo by Linda Di Nola
It was a
huge arena where the last of the ball boys and racquet clubbers had decamped
long ago after enjoying love, deuce, match and a set or two over a long
There was still love in the air but belated rain enabled sons and daughters
of the soil to make a trip to town before blessing their winter crops.
So it was no surprise that the expatriate Australasian superstar had no
qualms about sharing the limelight with a vast cast on his triumphant
There was a pretty lass from north of the Murray Dixon line, who appeared
in one or two motion pictures, a folk rock group from across the Nullarbor,
the drum line of a youth band and a bloke who showed off his record player
on the dais at stage left at half time.
The poor chappie had lousy taste in music - he played some of the tuneless
tripe from the corporate chains that rule wireless in the new millennia.
He didn't receive the same applause as the mother and daughter from the
Colac dairy belt who were invited on stage as the show moved into its
But let's get back to the stars of the show.
After delivering an energised version of his symbolic Faster Car the
headliner said: "I've finally made it to the Rod Laver Arena, one
night after 39 years."
But it wasn't the first time Keith Lionel Urban graced the stage of this
arena named after a fellow Queenslander from north of Caboolture at Rockhampton.
Back in the not so distant past the singer had opened for former Texan
starlet Leann Rimes at the same venue.
However, Urban may have repressed the memory because of the lousy sound
mix that he suffered on that occasion.
No such problem
this time with support act The Waifs, unencumbered by rock peers' penchant
to drown lyrics, also enjoying aural access.
The Waifs, like the Dixie Chicks, enjoyed their ascension from the stately
Palais to the tennis court.
And they exuded a Chicks like maternal pride in their nesting between
their last studio album Up All Night in 2003 and their new disc
cut in Nashville earlier this year.
"Donna and I took a few years off to have babies," Vikki Simpson
told the audience, "three boys."
The Simpson sisters swapped banter, vocals and instruments as they ambled
through career highlights including Lighthouse and Crazy Train.
Josh Cunningham, adept on guitar, mandolin and dobro, also sang obligatory
Dylan song Lonesome When You Go.
And, for light relief, Vikki announced his cameo on ukulele "the
tinniest instrument in the biggest venue."
Ben Franz also showcased their largest instrument - double bass - and
Vikki Simpson alternated on acoustic guitar and harmonica.
The semi acoustic outfit anchored by drummer David McDonald, proved a
perfect foil for the headliner's hard driving country rock.
Equally importantly they road tested new song How Many Miles from
their Nashville sessions and closed their set with prophetic No Such
Thing As Goodbye.
Fans debating whether to soak liquid relief from the bars or refreshing
autumnal skies soon had an extra incentive - a bloke who snuck into the
tennis court earlier in the day and set up one of those tower of power
It would appear some light fingered intruder scampered with all his vintage
Waylon & Willie, Billy Joe Shaver, Merle and Lefty, Loretta and Tammy
vinyl and caught him short.
So the myopic mix master had to borrow from an identikit rock station
Perhaps a secret plot by corporate bullfrogs to ensure they emptied seats
to dance to the clang of the cash registers at the beer, wine, spirits
and food counters.
The bleachers emptied quicker than the shelf life of the average dance,
hip-hop or rap act.
through rock radio, was an essential ingredient in ensuring the
headliner, born October 26, 1967, in Whangarei, New Zealand, maximised
his audience share in a fad driven market that spits out its victims
with venomous glee.
But equally importantly, when the house lights dimmed, was song
sequencing - an art form that Urban has mastered in 20 years on
the Lost Highway here and overseas.
The artist kicked off with Once In A Life Time - also entrée
for his sixth album Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing
that segued into Where The Black Top Ends.
enabled the sound crew to equalise instrumentation and vocals as
Urban tested the catwalk above the mosh pit to the centre of the
auditorium - locale of his acoustic cameo.
< Photo by Linda Di Nola
was later - now was time to ascend from the generic "Melbourne, how
are you feeling?" to the personalised response to the "hug me"
banner from Colac mother Kathy and daughter Sofie greeting.
Yes, the dairy belt belles rang on stage with the artist as he warned
"easy, my wife's in the audience."
Then it was back to business - showcasing the new album with his original
Shine and Sarah Buxton penned hit Stupid Boy punctuated
by Raining On Sunday from 2002 disc Golden Road.
The not so subliminal Cassius Clay images on the video screen were an
ideal vehicle for reality rooted original Used To The Pain that
preceded the band following leader on the long catwalk to their cameo
Urban began band introductions with bassist Jerry Flowers, who has been
with him 14 years including an off air visit to Nu Country FM Beer Can
Hill studio in their Ranch days, before performing You're My Better
The artist also exploited product placement by showcasing new Maton guitar and then wife Nicole, with a cute cameo on the big screen, before launching into a refrain of the Bob Crewe-Kenny Nolan penned Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons hit My Eyes Adored You and his Rodney Crowell hit Making Memories Of Us.
with banjo locked away for this tour, introduced Chris Rodriguez
on mandolin as he reached back for You'll Think Of Me.
But then came the visual and aural highlight - new single I Told
You So soaring from 21 to 14 with a bullet in the U.S. - that
began at acoustic central before the main stage lights zoomed in
on the 16 strong drum line of the Australian Youth Band.
An existential exit of sorts to the band's return with Days Go
By and Urban plucking pathos on piano of Can't Stop Loving
You and Tonight I Wanna Cry.
Urban's band revved up Just Wanna Be Me and Somebody Like You before he used a marital confessional to thank the audience for patience during his rehab. Not only do his fans find it commendable that Urban successfully completed rehab, any DUI lawyer Columbus would be impressed with his commitment to get sober.
cold hard facts are I wouldn't be here playing music if it wasn't for
my wife," Urban revealed as he introduced Got It Right This Time.
His encore began as an Australasian cross-cultural sprint on the catwalk
as he kicked off Dragon hit Are You Old Enough while young mothers
Vikki and Donna Simpson proved they were when they harmonised from the
Urban peaked in his fitting finale Everybody Loves Somebody Some Time.
So what's the verdict?
Well, country purists may regret culling of the bluegrass that highlighted
those multi instrumental skills on previous tours.
But, with a narrow window to commercial radio cracked open by Nova sponsorship
of the tour, he zeroed in with a rocking country pop projectile aimed
squarely at suburbia and middle Australia.
This obviously upset some suburban broadsheet rock critics but not the
avid army of new fans not imprisoned in cyber chat cells.
by David Dawson with photos by Linda Di Nola
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