The Keith and Carrie Carnival Tour Arrives at Boardwalk Hall
Country music artists have a history of superstar tours offering up two big names to provide a double-barrel shot of entertainment for fans. Of course, most of these multi-star tours tend to stay south of the Mason-Dixon line.
It will therefore be a special treat for regional country music fans to see Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood at Boardwalk Hall this Friday night (Feb. 15). This is the mega-country tour of the moment, enhanced Sunday by the news that Urban and Underwood are the reigning Grammy-winners in country music. Urban earned his second country male vocal Grammy for "Stupid Boy," and Underwood's "Before He Cheats" was named best female country vocal performance. It was also her second Grammy. She won last year for "Jesus Take the Wheel."
The crossover appeal of both Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood probably explains how this tour ended up launching in Connecticut, with a stop at Madison Square Garden, before heading 120 miles south to Boardwalk Hall.
The "Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Carnival Ride Tour" is an atypical country tour in several respects, the most obvious being the career paths that both Urban and Underwood took to find country stardom. The term "crazy ride" applies equally to Urban and Underwood. He ending up as a country music star in America after growing up in Australia, and Underwood, a talented small-town girl from Oklahoma, won American Idol and forged a brand new route to country stardom from a program better known for grooming pop stars.
Underwood, now 24, quickly proved that while American Idol launched her career, it would not define it. Some Hearts, her debut album, has sold more than 6 million records in the U.S. Released in late 2005, it was the best-selling female country album of 2005, 2006 and 2007, and made history as Billboard's top country album for both 2006 and 2007. "Before He Cheats" went on to become a hit on the pop charts. There has been no sophomore slump either. Carnival Ride is already a double platinum success, with the hit singles "So Small" and "All-American Girl," both of which Underwood co-wrote. Underwood had more say about the song selection on this album, co-writing four of the songs.
In an interview in Entertainment Weekly, Underwood explained why her latest album is more pure country than her debut. "I'd gained a big following from Idol of people who were not all country music listeners," she said. "I want to be a country artist in a country world with country fans. We had to figure out a way, even if they're not country music fans, to make them country music fans."
Underwood also noted that she couldn't do anything about the people who think she had an easy path to stardom. "Anybody who says I took a shortcut, they are insane," she said. "We didn't take the easy way; if anything we took a more difficult way. It was just unconventional, therefore it must be wrong."
Keith Urban's path to country music stardom was also unconventional. He might take offense at being called an Aussie rather than a Kiwi. Technically he was born in Whangarei, New Zealand, though he grew up from the age of six in Caboolture, Queensland, Australia. He wanted to be a singer-guitarist practically from birth, had his first band by age 12 and by age 15 had quit school to pursue his musical career. It was his father's classic country music collection that helped fuel his passion for country music -- that and seeing Johnny Cash and Tom T. Hall in concert Down Under.
When you see him perform live you realize immediately why Urban has been called a rock 'n' roll guitar god disguised as a country artist. His musical influences include the guitar work of Mark Knopfler, and singers Glen Campbell, James Taylor and John Mellencamp.
He arrived in the States in 1992 -- already a star in Australia -- but faced opposition from people who thought of him as an "outsider." Despite his obvious talent and rock-star good looks, it took years for him to finally get accepted and signed by a major label. Frustration took its toll; Urban's was freebasing cocaine. He checked into rehab in 1998.
Despite his later career success, Urban's addictive personality resurfaced in 2006 when, several months after his marriage to fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman, he checked into rehab for alcohol abuse.
He said at the time in a statement: "I deeply regret the hurt this has caused Nicole and the ones that love and support me. One can never let one's guard down on recovery, and I'm afraid that I have."
Now 40, Urban is keeping his guard up, and he's out on the road doing what he loves. Urban's follow-up to 2006's multi-platinum Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing is his first greatest hits release, Greatest Hits: 18 Kids. The CD contains all of Urban's No. 1 hits, including "It's a Love Thing," "Your Everything," "Where the Blacktop Ends," "You're My Better Half" and "Making Memories of Us."
Urban is all about the music again. In a recent online interview, he talked about his passion. "Country music always cycles around," he said. "Certainly in the 1980s, with Urban Cowboy, it incorporated a lot of soft rock. But there is always a resurgence of tradition, a swing of the pendulum back to the core of the genre. Then it swings back as some artists take it somewhere else. I don't know where it's going, but that's what I love about country."
This Friday, the two divergent, unconventional paths to stardom that were traveled by the sexy lad from Australia and the small-town girl from Oklahoma will converge at Boardwalk Hall.
Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood
When: Friday, Feb. 15, 7:30pm
Where: Boardwalk Hall
How Much: $125-$45
“I still have the passion for music. I still love to write, record and go on tour. What else am I going to do? I don’t want to retire. That’s no fun. If you have something to contribute, why not go out there and still give all that you got as opposed to just sitting in a chair and doing nothing?"
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