Years before he covered the Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty staple “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” during a 2008 tour with Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban paid tribute to the head Heartbreaker with a lengthy, live version of “Free Fallin.'” In the video above, he wraps up his Livin’ Right Now Tour — a 2004 trek that celebrated the success of his album Golden Road and its hits “You’ll Think of Me” and “Somebody Like You” as well the release of that year’s Be Here — with a show at the Wiltern Theatre in L.A., home of Mr. Petty himself.
Urban and company stretch the song well past its usual boundaries, working organ solos, audience sing-alongs and guitar build-ups into a cover that tops out at nine and a half minutes. Throughout it all, Urban — who would meet his future wife, Nicole Kidman, during a Hollywood party just several weeks later — flirts mercilessly with the mostly female audience. “The good girls ain’t here, man!” he teases at the end of the second verse, before bandmates Chris Rodriguez and Chad Jeffers join him for a harmony-heavy chorus.
A decade later, Urban rarely plays venues like the Wiltern, whose 2,300-capacity space seems relatively cozy by arena standards. He’s still covering heartland rock & roll anthems, though, most recently hitting the CMA Awards stage with John Mellencamp for a rootsy take on “Pink Houses.”
Urban is also the focus of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s latest exhibit, Keith Urban So Far…, which opens today. Running through May 2016, the career retrospective includes guitars from his personal collection, awards, clothing and other memorabilia.