Keith Urban ready to take fans on carnival ride

Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:34pm EDT
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By Vernell Hackett

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Keith Urban hits the road this summer on his "Get Closer" tour with a carnival stage set befitting a country music star, but he still has memories of paying for his own props at a hardware store.

"I was putting on a show at a club in Nashville and I had no money, so I went to a hardware store and bought a couple sections of this fake white picket fence and wire to hang them from the ceiling at these odd angles," Urban said.

The 43-year-old performer, who was born in New Zealand and came to the United States from Australia in 1992, has come a long way since his three-member band "The Ranch" released their lone U.S. album in 1997. He has developed a huge following thanks to hits such as "Memories of Us," "You Look Good in My Shirt" and "Start A Band" with Brad Paisley.

Urban's 2010 Grammy-winning hit song "'Til Summer Comes Around" inspired the carnival theme of the upcoming 70-stop tour, which features a Ferris wheel equipped with a video screen and a roller coaster used to hang stage lights.

To try to make audiences feel they are in an intimate club and not a giant arena, Urban installs satellite stages and ambles through the audience to sing and give away a guitar.

"I just love getting out among everybody, even though sometimes it's chaotic. A few times I have thought, 'What am I doing out here?' There's something about the adrenaline and the electricity and being on edge and the unpredictability of it that I really love," he said.

"Part of the problem (is) when you get to this level of a show everything is so thought out, there's not much spontaneity left. Everything is predictable and you can feel it. I'm just trying to keep some moments in the show when who knows what will happen?" he said.

As Urban's current single, "Without You," climbed to the top of the country music charts, he took a break from rehearsals in Nashville to speak with Reuters.   Continued...