Blame it on the moon. The full moon. The full moon shining over the deep-fried Minnesota State Fair.
Friday was country superstar Keith Urban’s first time at the State Fair grandstand and apparently he didn’t realize where he was. Early on, he called it a county fair. Later, he said the Minneapolis State Fair. Blame it on the moon.
No, actually during the encore he sorta blamed it on his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, who is in a play in London, and he was in England all week with her and their daughters and just flew in for the gig.
Urban left his wiz-bang video setup in Nashville and approached this almost like a no-frills bar gig with just three sidemen. No problem with that. His good-time music was good enough, especially an improvised “Werewolves of London,” which was a nod to the full moon.
But Urban didn’t really become fully invested until the seventh song, the ballad “Till Summer Comes Around.” For the first time all night, he let his guitar pick up on the emotion of the lyrics and he soared, getting lost in his guitar playing, suggesting a searing loneliness as the bleakness of winter approaches.
The ensuing “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” Urban’s new single, was atypically loose, almost as if the under-rehearsed band couldn’t decide on a reggae or hip-hop groove. But Urban got back on track on the next number, “Sweet Thing,” featuring his fast-strumming, foot-stomping, windmill-fueled guitar work and the ad-libbed lyrics “On a Friday night at the Minnesota State Fair, you can get fried anything.”
Ah, he got the venue and the music just right.
Urban couldn’t be stopped for the rest of the 105-minute performance. Unquestionably, the highlight for the 13,038 fans was “You Look Good in My Shirt,” a peppy and playful tune for which Urban jumped into the audience and eventually made his way to a small platform where he continued to perform.
In mid-song, he turned chatty before a singalong. “Where are the single people in the crowd?” he asked. “This is like a festival version of Tinder. Some of you are scared to sing now.”
Nonetheless, he managed to get the single people revved up and then the couples, too. And he sent one woman over the moon by giving her his guitar and a hug.
The fun didn’t stop there. For “Kiss a Girl” — another slice of fluff in a repertoire filled with lightweight ’80s pop-rock disguised as country music — Urban brought a fan onstage to sing. Jeff from Minneapolis explained that he’d met Laura at Tiffany’s bar in St. Paul.
“Has she got a Tiffany ring on her hand?” the quick-witted Urban asked.
But Jeff was even quicker when he said of his wife of two years, “I think I might actually have a chance tonight.”
Jeff didn’t exactly have a voice for karaoke but he had the right hammy spirit for the stage.
Ah, blame it on the moon.
Opening the concert was Kelsea Ballerini, 21, who just scored a No. 1 country song with her debut single, “Love Me Like You Mean It.” Often regarded as the next Taylor Swift, she was encouraging until her misguided ’90s medley of hits by Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync and Destiny’s Child.