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Keith Urban and David Nail at the New York State Fair, Review (Syracuse Blog)

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A Little Bit Country, A Helluva Lot of Fun

Country Music Stars Keith Urban and David Nail at the New York State Fair

Keith Urban at the NY State Fair. Photo by Jessica VeneziaThe grandstand was rocking last Friday night at the New York State Fair in Syracuse as David Nail and Keith Urban put on an impressive show for thousands of fairgoers.  In advance of the concert, Fair director Dan O’Hara said, “This will be a show Fairgoers won’t want to miss.” He was absolutely right.

David Nail, an Academy of Country Music and Grammy Award nominee, opened the show with “That’s How I’ll Remember You,” followed by “She Rides Away,” both tracks off of his most recent album, [amazonify]B005OGYH86::text::::The Sound Of A Million Dreams[/amazonify], which was released last November.  It was clear from the beginning that the concert would be outstanding—Nail’s opening numbers were striking enough to cause goose bumps and definitely got the attention of the crowd. After a couple of his lesser-known tunes and a rendition of John Mayer’s “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You),” which was a somewhat surprising yet appropriate choice, Nail passionately belted out the melancholy “Red Light,” his first top 10 country hit. The audience sang along much to Nail’s delight.

Nail was friendly and fun, encouraging the audience to stand up for the second half of his set because his mom was backstage, all the way from Missouri, and he wanted her to think he was important. As the sun set and the stage lights began to glow, Nail strummed his guitar and belted out a moving performance of “Let It Rain,” his first number one hit, singing every word like he absolutely meant it. He closed his 45-minute set with the lighthearted “Grandpa’s Farm,” and walked off the stage to appreciative applause.

While the highlights of Nail’s performance were his best-known songs, “Red Light” and “Let It Rain,” “Turning Home,” another of Nail’s most popular hits, was missing from the set list. Still, every song he did perform was outstanding.  Though Nail is still somewhat of an up-and-coming artist, his performance on Friday proved that he is more than capable of headlining his own tour sometime in the near future. It was well worth the price of admission just to see Nail’s performance and, given his talent, it’s surprising he’s not more famous and popular than he already is.

Keith Urban & David NailFollowing a short intermission, the grandstand rumbled with applause as Keith Urban, the most recent inductee to the Grand Ole Opry and winner of numerous Academy of Country Music, Country Music Association, and Grammy Awards, took the stage, opening his set with a lively rendition of “You Gonna Fly” followed by the upbeat “Put You in a Song.” After slowing it down a bit with the sultry “Raining on Sunday,” including Urban’s usual fiery guitar solo at the end, Urban, who looked like he was enjoying himself, told the crowd he was happy to be back. (The last time he played at the State Fair Grandstand was in 2006.) It was clear that the crowd was equally happy to have him back, cheering, screaming, and singing along to “Long Hot Summer,” a tune off of his most recent album [amazonify]B004259BMM::text::::Get Closer[/amazonify] which was a crowd favorite and a particularly appropriate song given the warm summer night and the outdoor venue.

Urban’s set kept the audience on their feet, alternating between upbeat songs and slower tunes throughout his performance. Crowd members swayed to the moving acoustic versions of “Memories of Us” and the always-popular extended version of “You’ll Think of Me,” a heartbreaking tune that could make you feel lonely even amongst the hoards of people in the crowded grandstand. They danced to “Sweet Thing,” “Days Go By,” and “Somebody Like You,” and were thrilled when Urban invited three audience members on to the stage to sing “Kiss A Girl” with him. “‘Til Summer Comes Around” was especially eerie with the lights of the Fair’s carnival rides in the background and Urban’s impressive guitar solo at the end drew enthusiastic applause from the crowd.

It may have been the simple stage set-up—just a few rugs rolled out on the stage behind the microphones—or the way Urban made sure to acknowledge every section of the audience throughout the show, from the fans in the front row to those way up in the ‘cheap seats.’ Or it may have been the emotion in Urban’s voice or the sly smile on his face as he performed songs like “Without You” and “I’m In.” Somehow Urban made the huge venue seem almost intimate through his performance, engaging the entire audience, a huge feat and an admirable quality in a performer.  Watching him sing and play guitar made it evident that his songs aren’t just words put to music; they are stories of his life.

Urban’s performance was very interactive and his sense of humor throughout the show was charming.  He sang “I Told You So” on the small side-stage along with the women signing for the hearing impaired, and thanked them for their assistance. He encouraged the audience to sing along with him, at times stepping away from the microphone to hear his lyrics sung for him.  He ran through the crowd on multiple occasions, giving away his guitar to a fan after singing “You Look Good In My Shirt” from a platform in the midst of the audience. “It’s fun as hell running through the crowd, I’ve just gotta say,” Urban remarked in his Australian drawl as he laughed and caught his breath.

The crowd roared for minutes after Urban and his band left the stage, and the grandstand buzzed with excitement as they returned to the stage for an encore. After a haunting rendition of “Tonight I Wanna Cry,” Urban smiled at the applauding crowd and announced, “We’re just going to play a few more, what the hell!”  He prefaced “For You,” a track from the recent movie Act of Valor, with a brief thank you to all US service members. A stirring tribute, the bass line resonated through the grandstand and Urban’s electric guitar soared. Finally, after an authentic thank you to his road crew and to the audience for attending, Urban and his band closed the show with the hopeful, upbeat tune “Better Life.”

Concertgoers left the show around 11pm, pleased and excited about what they had just seen, chatting about the show as they made their way back through the fairgrounds to the exit.  Both extremely talented and seemingly genuine, David Nail and Keith Urban put on an outstanding and memorable show that fairgoers and country music lovers will likely still be talking about when next year’s fair comes around.

Jessica Venezia is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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