Keith Urban: 10 Best Live Performances - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

Keith Urban: 10 Best Live Performances

From his own hits “Cop Car” and “Stupid Boy” to a cover of the Stones’ “Tumblin’ Dice”

Keith Urban

From "Long Hot Summer" to "Cop Car," the 10 best live Keith Urban performances.

David Becker/Getty Images

Under the bright lights with guitar in hand, Keith Urban has few rivals in the country music world. Whether he’s playing his own hits or covers by artists from the Rolling Stones to Taylor Swift — he just delivered a stunning take on the pop superstar’s “Lover” during a tour stop in Washington state — the musician is riveting onstage.

For further proof, consult these 10 best live performances by the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year.

Keith Urban

“Stupid Boy”

Co-writer Sarah Buxton may have recorded the song first, but it was Keith Urban who turned "Stupid Boy" into one of the biggest-sounding country-rock power ballads of the 2000s, flipping the tune's perspective by delivering it not as a brokenhearted woman, but as a self-loathing man. Here, during a 2008 tour in support of Love Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing, he rips into the song's outro like an arena rocker from the Eighties, delivering two and a half minutes of finger-fueled fury from the catwalk.

Keith Urban

“I Told You So”

Performing on Australian TV in 2009, Urban turns his acoustic guitar into a percussive instrument, the heel of his right hand bumping a galloping beat while his fingers do the rest of the work. It's a loose, informal performance — so loose that Urban doesn't even know how to end it, ad-libbing an outro that includes a shout-out to fellow Aussie John Butler, who's sitting several feet away — which makes "I Told You So" feel like an insider's look into one of Urban's rehearsals.

Keith Urban

“Tumblin’ Dice”

While a water-logged Nashville slowly recovered from the 1000-year flood of May 2010, Urban headed up to New York, hoping to a raise public awareness of the problem by hitting Jimmy Fallon's late-night show with a supergroup of Music City musicians. The group covered the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street classic "Tumblin' Dice," with Sarah Buxton and the distaff half of Little Big Town singing gospel harmonies. In the last chorus, Urban and company change the song's refrain from "Tumblin' dice" to "Cumberland rise," with Urban adding, "So send that money, baby!"

Keith Urban

“You’ll Think of Me”

Urban headlined his first American tour in 2004, hitting the road in support of the quadruple-platinum Be Here. Lifted from a Los Angeles performance during that trek, this version of "You'll Think of Me" shows a newly-made star who's already learned how to hold a theater's attention, even when he sets down his electric guitar and picks up the acoustic. Granted, there doesn't need to be quite so much fog circling around the guy's boots — what is this, Heart's "These Dreams" video? — but the performance still sounds fresh, even if the stage design has long since passed its expiration date.

Keith Urban

“‘Til Summer Comes Around”

John Mayer and Keith Urban teamed up for an episode of CMT Crossroads in 2010, both looking to attract some crossover buzz for their new albums. Here, Urban — caught halfway between the promo cycle of Defying Gravity and the release of Get Closer — enlists his friend’s help on “Til Summer Comes Around,” a minor-key lament about a relationship that goes cold. With Urban playing a Strat and Mayer struming a Duesenberg, the two cover 12 strings’ worth of ground, searching in vain for the one who got away.

Keith Urban

“Long Hot Summer”

Recorded one day after the 2013 ACM Awards, this pitch-perfect performance of "Long Hot Summer" was a highlight of Tim McGraw's "Superstar Summer Night," a CBS special meant to spotlight the year's biggest touring acts. Urban's voice — refueled and refreshed after a 2011 throat operation — sounds as elastic as his electric guitar, and the song reaches its peak during the final 60 seconds, when Urban jumps offstage, hoists his Telecaster into the cheap seats and plays a solo surrounded by fans.

Keith Urban

“Somewhere in My Car”

Playing the largest stage Nashville has to offer, Urban kicked off his set at the 2014 CMA Fest with equal doses of fretwork and firepower, performing his Fuse hit “Somewhere in My Car” for an entire football stadium worth of fans. There’s a refreshing lack of Auto-Tune masking his voice here — just listen to the gloriously botched “woo hoo” in the first pre-chorus — which only serves to make the performance more believable, especially when Urban launches into a wah-pedal guitar solo that’s so flawless, it might as well have been lifted from his studio tapes.

Keith Urban

“Sweet Thing”

Although shot by an audience member on what appears to be an iPhone, this clip from an Austin performance in 2014 shows Urban and his road band hitting the sort of stride that only appears after months on tour. The harmonies are spot-on, and no one bats an eye when Urban rockets his guitar outro into outer space, climbing his way up the fretboard until there's nowhere else to go. Lo-fi meets high energy.

Keith Urban

“Cop Car”

Giving his touring musicians the night off, Urban hit the stage of the 2014 CMT Awards alone, performing “Cop Car” with little more than a Stratocaster and a microphone. The set design alone — a replica of the Bluebird Cafe’s interior, with walls that come apart halfway through the song to reveal Urban standing in the middle of the crowd — deserves its own applause, but it’s the stripped-down arrangement and reverb-heavy guitar work that seal the deal.

Keith Urban

“Somebody Like You”

Recorded in October 2002 as part of a charity effort to raise funds for drought-plagued farmers in Australia, this clip captures Urban during the earliest stages of stardom. He looks shockingly similar to his current self, and he more or less sounds the same, too, mixing the croon of his voice with the scream and swoon of his Telecaster. Bonus: Urban's Grateful Dead concert T-shirt, a sign of a music fanatic still enthralled with the idea of sharing the same spotlight as some of his idols.

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.