REVIEW ANNI FORDHAM
It takes rare talent to create a feeling of intimacy in a 15,000-capacity arena but country music legend and perpetual nice guy Keith Urban made Perth Arena feel decidedly small on Sunday night.
Fans from all over WA descended on the arena to witness the Grammy-winning Queenslander's first Perth show in seven years.
It was also the last stop on Urban's Light the Fuse Tour and he took every opportunity to make his fans feel special.
The show was full of "aw" moments, with Urban inviting two young women onstage so he could sign the poster they'd been holding up, and later singing a duet with local singer- songwriter Chelsea Basham.
Musically, he didn't disappoint, delivering a superb two-hour performance jam-packed with songs from his seventh studio album Fuse, plus favourites like Kiss a Girl and Somebody Like You.
Opening with Love's Poster Child from Fuse, Urban paced his show perfectly - throwing in just enough ballads to break up a long list of anthemic rock songs.
Urban weaved through the crowd during 2004 hit Days Go By, planting himself halfway up the stands to perform the rest of the track, followed by You Look Good in My Shirt.
His ability to play a mesmerising electric guitar solo while surrounded by screaming fans - and still sound good - was impressive.
A young boy got the surprise of his life when Urban signed the guitar he was playing and handed it over before disappearing into the crowd and re-emerging onstage.
Songs were interspersed with anecdotes about previous visits to Perth.
"When we were last here in 07 we played at that inflatable place - what the hell," he said, referring to the now-demolished Burswood Dome.
"I'm loving this Perth Arena - good job, Perth."
A four-song encore included Making Memories of Us, a ballad Urban sang at his wedding to Nicole Kidman in 2006.
"She's not here tonight but I'm going to dedicate this song to Nic anyway," he said.
Earlier, Brisbane indie pop youngsters Sheppard kicked things off splendidly, delivering infectious chart-toppers like Geronimo and Let Me Down Easy.
They later joined Urban onstage for a stripped-back cover of Bill Withers' 1971 classic Ain't No Sunshine.
He may be an international superstar but Urban hasn't forgotten how he got there and took every opportunity to thank his fans, many of whom travelled a great distance to see him.
Purists dismiss him as not quite country but who cares? You can't help but be drawn into the big, warm, group hug that is a Keith Urban concert.