Guitar hero Urban sings his heart out

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 11, 2014 - 11:58 PM

Review: The “American Idol” judge was a winner.

Sorry, Keith Urban. You’re not the best-looking judge on “American Idol” anymore. Jennifer Lopez and Harry ­Connick Jr. might get their share of votes.

But Urban is unquestionably — sorry, Steven Tyler — the best live performer of any judge ever on “Idol.” Let us count the ways that he proved that ­Saturday in front of 11,000 fans at Target Center.

1. Urban is a bona fide guitar hero. No one ever called Connick a piano god. But Urban averaged two solos per song Saturday — and not concise runs like Brad Paisley and Vince Gill do. Urban showed range with bent bluesy notes, ripping rock solos, sitar-like explorations and plaintive acoustic passages, among other hot licks.

2. Urban sure has a pretty, emotional voice. He’s certainly not the vocal gymnast that Mariah Carey is or the screamer that Tyler is. But Urban has a pleasing tenor, sort of a cross between Kenny Loggins and Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon.

3. Urban is totally in the moment. This is no carefully choreographed show like J. Lo’s. Even if his bits like inviting a fan onstage to sit on a recliner and request a song are planned, he made it seem fresh and fun. When Tara said she was from St. Paul, he countered that half the fans would be happy.

4. Urban, 46, has tremendous energy, which makes his songs —fairly undistinctive 1980s pop-rock marketed as country — exciting. He carried on for 2 hours, 12 minutes, wailing on guitar, serenading on piano and banjo, and singing his heart out. And he worked the entire room, including performing on a tiny stage at the back of the arena and later in the middle of section 132.

5. Urban not only did cool covers (the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Adele’s “Rumour Has It,” the Bangles’ “Manic Monday”) but he made his openers part of his show, bringing Little Big Town to harmonize with him on “You Gonna Fly” and Dustin Lynch on the poppy “Kiss a Girl.”

6. Urban tours regularly. He headlined in the Twin Cities in 2011, ’09 and ’07, when he drew 16,000. His audience may have fallen some but he’s clearly at the top of his game. In fact, his performance Saturday was superior to Twin Cities concerts by any other TV talent judge/coach — including Blake Shelton, Britney Spears and even Usher.

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