Friday, April 20, 2012

Keith Urban - A Lot Of Nashville Nirvana, Pt. 2

Keith Urban takes time to talk to his fans after a show

Last week I made another pilgrimage to my Mecca – Nashville.  I’m a huge fan of country music and swooned over Conway Twitty’s “Hello, Darlin’” way back when.  But this particular visit was to worship at the feet of my guitar god, Keith Urban.

As I told you in my last post, I traveled there for the All For The Hall concert to benefit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  Keith Urban and Vince Gill hosted the show and invited a whole passel of their music-making friends to raise money in support of programs the CMHOF takes to the community.  But let’s be honest, the #1 reason I traveled there was for this:
 While part of this trip allowed me to bow at the altar of books and filled my word-loving soul, going to a Keith Urban concert is like a spiritual cleanse, an emotional release.  He’s a man who was born to entertain; he was born to play guitar.  Three hours in the front row at one of his concerts watching him follow his passion can be as reinvigorating for his fans as a weekend on the beach.  He anoints you with his unmitigated joy in making music in communion with the crowd.

Despite his country music awards, Australian music awards, and Grammy Awards he continues to bring his personal warmth and enthusiasm to as many people in as many ways as he can.  After concerts he’s gone out to the parking lot of arenas to play a short set for the stragglers who haven’t made it to their cars.  He’s played free shows in shopping malls and train stations even though he could just spend his time filling arenas.  At every show he wades into the crowd to play in the most up close and personal way he can.  He invites audience members onstage for singing contests or just for a hug.

What comes through in every performance is his sense of immense gratitude that he is allowed to play his music for us every day.  The road to success was filled with hairpin turns.  After all, who would assume that when a young boy in Queensland, AU says he wants to become a country music star in Nashville that it’s a slam-dunk?  People on both sides of the ocean thought he was insane.  Without a plan B, though, he kept writing and playing until finally people heard what he wanted to say musically.  In this new American Idol culture, we forget the struggling artist still exists.  He kept chipping away at Music City for almost 15 years before he had a hit record.

He shows that gratitude in so many ways.  On the morning of the AFTH show his fan club hosted a free breakfast for the members who had bought tickets to the concert.  The 300 or so who managed to make it there in the early hours of the morning assumed Keith would show up to thanks us for supporting the CMHOF, perhaps sing one song before heading off to rehearsal.  However, after the first song, he sang another, and another, and another.  And he asked who had come the farthest to the show because his fans actually cross state lines and national borders to see his shows.  A woman called out that she had come from Finland.  Finland, Indiana we found out.  And he sang requests.  And he sang songs about being an Ed McMahon Sweepstakes winner he had written before he had won the music lottery himself.  His “thank you” lasted almost an hour.

Up close and personal at his fan club appreciation breakfast
The AFTH concert put me somewhere north of four dozen Keith shows since I started following him.  For his fans, “following him” is a literal act, not a metaphorical one.  My concert count is small potatoes compared to the woman next to me at the stage that night.  She was on her 98th show.  The farthest I’ve gone to see him perform is a small club in Birmingham, England.  I know fans who’ve traveled to his shows in his home country of Australia.  When people ask why I go so often, they inevitably follow it up with, “Isn’t it the same show every time?”  No one ever asks me “Why do you go to church every week?  Isn’t the service always the same?”  No one says, “If you’ve heard Beethoven’s 5th once, why listen again?” or “Van Gogh’s ’Starry Night’ hasn’t changed.  Why go to the museum again?”  Or “Why read To Kill a Mockingbird again?”

Most of us chug along through our days surrounded by people giving half-hearted efforts, perhaps doing jobs that make us just count the hours until 5 o’clock.  The atmosphere is filled with cynicism or competition.  We might feel stuck.  We’re not even sure what we want to do.  If I feel like that, a trip to a bookstore, or a writing conference, or a Keith show is exactly what I need.  They are living pictures of what persistence and a dream can achieve.  When I’ve lost ardor for my own path, I want to go someplace where I can soak up the intensity of someone who might be living this philosophy:

When I surround myself with excellence and passion, even if just for a couple of hours I want to dress myself in that feeling and wear it for a week.  I want to create.  I want to do something with a lasting impact, even if it were only as mundane as reorganizing cabinets so that life in my kitchen works so much more efficiently.  I want to pursue a goal and take it as far as I can.  Yes, the feeling may fade in a few days, but that just gives me an excuse to look for the next model for living my best life.  Or I can just crank up some Keith Urban music and dance around until everything that drags me down has been pushed to the back and I’m ready to move forward to something great.

What do you want to have passion about?  What do you do to pump it up when you feel it fading?  Get us excited about something in the comments box.  Let us know what drives you and brings out your creativity.  How do you get back in the game when life has just been dragging you down?

"Put You In A Song" at the All For The Hall breakfast concert


Elaine Smothers said...

Really LOVED this post!

I've been a Keith Urban fan for many years, have all his CD's, but have never been to any of his concerts. It's obvious from watching his performances, that he's a passionate musician, but I didn't know any of the details you shared about just how caring & giving he is to his fans!

SueAnn said...

Wow well written and that just about sums it up! My passion too is Keith Urban and his extreme, god given talent! I was there last Tuesday for all of that! He is truly and amazing, inspiring artist and man and I am proud to be a fan!

Anonymous said...

You have expressed in words what I have been feeling. Thank you. I should forward this to all my friends and family who call me an obsessed groupie.

LittleBitz said...

Thank you for the beautiful words. Now when someone asks me "isn't it the same show each time?" I'm going to give them a link to this post :

As for me, my passion is photography. I only wish I had a way to get through fear and other mental stuff to push through the way you are and the way Keith does. Thank you for the inspiration. I will come back often for more :)


Julie Farrar said...

Anyone who hasn't been to a Keith show just needs to go. It's worth the time and expense of travel. And Meri, following a passion doesn't have to come in big steps. Starting this blog was my first - little - step to a writing life. I have a long way to go, but each step gets less scary now. Don't you think Keith was afraid on his first trip to Nashville to make his dream come true?

Anonymous said...

That man knows how to have fun and it's addicting. I saw him perfporm on what had turned out to be a crushingly depressing day and he managed to renew my faith that good things come around again. I will be forever grateful for that.

Kim said...

Wow! Julie, you summed up everything I feel but could not express so eloquently about Keith. It sounded like you were describing me and dozens of other monkeys who "follow" him. From your pictures, I think I was standing in about your spot on the opposite side for the breakfast and AFTH. Never tought I'd be this way over a musician, but Keith is so spiritual and generous that it is impossible not to become addicted to the feeling I get being in his presence. Headed off after work to Nashville for the Opry induction. May God continue to bless Keith Urban.

Linda W said...

Hey, Julie!

Thanks for putting into words what Keith Urban fans experience! I can't think of any other artist who warms our hearts and crawls inside our souls quite like Keith does. His music truly expresses our life experiences, and that's why we all relate so much to and with him. What a beautiful spirit he is!

Sorry you aren't joining Edna and me in Nashville this weekend for the Opry induction... we'll catch you at another show, though!

Linda W

Anonymous said...

Julie, great post. I’m not a fan of Keith Urban or country music, but I know passion and I understand your elation when you attend his concerts.
When I was young and lived in Moscow, I loved ballet passionately, although I never danced myself. I had a like-minded friend, and together we went to the Bolshoi theatre a few times a month to see every ballet show, performed by every ballerina of the Bolshoi. We discussed the merits and faults of all the dancers. We often visited a smaller ballet theatre in Moscow and all the ballet performances by guest dancers and guest troupes. I bought books about ballet dancers and ballet history. Wherever I traveled on vacation, I tried to see a local ballet show, if possible. If I didn’t attend a ballet in a month, I felt empty: something was missing. I spent all my money on tickets, the money other young women spent on clothing. Ballet made my otherwise dull life rich.
Then I moved to Vancouver, and the situation changed. There is no classical ballet here, the local modern dance company is very mediocre, and the only classical ballet Vancouver ever sees is Winnipeg or Alberta Ballet; both troupes rather below the Bolshoi theatre level. I stopped going to the ballet. Although I missed it, after a few ballet-less years I thought myself cured of my passion. Then, a couple months age, Cuban National Ballet came here with a classical ballet Don Quixote. Of course I went. Cuban ballet is renowned for the quality of its dancers. How glad I was that I went. It was fantastic. I felt elation for days afterwards. I guess there is no ‘cure’ for this kind of addiction.

Tami Clayton said...

I have so many passions right now that I would take up way too much space in your comments section listing them all. Writing is my main focus, but also learning and absorbing as much as possible about anything and everything that interests me. Keith Urban's concerts sound so wonderful. I'll have to go next time I hear he's out west.

Julie Farrar said...

Olga, I loved your ballet story. I have friends in Europe who are Keith fans (country music is big in some groups). I don't know how they survive without chances to see him live.

Tami, like you I have many passions. I think I have to pick one and stick with it for a while. Alas, it's really not reasonable to devote hours a day to Keith Urban, so I guess I'll do writing.

monicastangledweb said...

I love this line: "When people ask why I go so often, they inevitably follow it up with, “Isn’t it the same show every time?” No one ever asks me “Why do you go to church every week?"
Such a good point. It's so important to follow your bliss, whatever, wherever it is. Glad you have found yours in Keith Urban. Sounds like a good guy, one who truly appreciates his fans.

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks for all your great comments. Wish I could give you more posts on this subject, but I just haven't convinced the guy to give shows 300 days a year for me.

Penny said...

For those of you who don't like traditional country music but like 80's rock, you need to give Keith Urban a listen. After I dragged my die hard rock and roll son to a Keith concert, he came out saying..."D*** he's good. That was one great concert."

I was so elated to be at the AFTH concert where Keith was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. No one deserved it more. I am addicted to that man and his music.

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