Keith Urban and his band welcomed several dozen fans and industry members to a preview of his Ripcord World Tour 2016 on Wednesday (May 25) at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. For about an hour and a half, Urban’s concert showed off the tour’s sophisticated lighting production and multiple stages.
Urban estimated that nine songs from his eighth studio album, Ripcord will make it into the tour’s set list. Ripcord has already spawned the hits “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” “Break On Me,” and “Wasted Time.”
Urban launched the preview with Ripcord’s album opener, “Gone Tomorrow (Here Today),” the same song he will use to open each show on the tour.
“There is a huge amount of buoyant, summer songs that are just right for this kind of environment,” he told reporters. “That’s why I’m looking forward to this tour so much and I can’t wait to get these songs out in front of a live audience. We’ve never had this much of a summery, jubilant, groovy music to play before.”
The trek marks Urban’s first full-fledged, album-supporting tour in three years, and he’s anxious to bring fans a mix of previous hits and new material.
“You guys are like the real deal,” Urban told the audience. “This is like a real gig.”
Throughout the rehearsal, the superstar singer-songwriter also offered insights into what fans can expect. He offered a rendition of another tune from Ripcord, a much-buzzed about collaboration with Carrie Underwood, “The Fighter.” Urban noted that Underwood has recorded a special video for the tour, though only her vocal track from the album was showcased during his preview.
“It will be better when Carrie is on the screen,” said Urban.
Later in the set, Urban and two of his crew members reassembled on a smaller satellite stage for “You Gonna Fly.” The singer noted that tour opener Brett Eldredge will join him for a song on the satellite stage each evening, while fellow tour opener Maren Morris will handle Miranda Lambert’s vocal part on the 2013 collaboration “We Were Us.”
During the rehearsal, songs such as 1999’s “Where the Blacktop Ends” benefited from a grungier, extended guitar solo, while Urban stayed close to the center microphone, and was bathed in white lights during “Everybody,” a track from 2006’s Love, Pain and The Whole Crazy Thing.
Helping to bridge that sonic gap between the experimental, rhythmic fare found on Ripcord, and the grooves of his earlier hits is a custom bit of machinery constructed by Urban’s newest band member, Nathan Barlowe. Called “The Phantom,” the machine duplicates various musical elements from the album, but can also manipulate musical elements in real time, allowing for maximum musical flexibility.
“The middle of last year when I was making Ripcord, even though I was a long way off from finishing, I could tell I was going to need a new guy in the band, but it wasn’t a role I could put a title to. I said to [band leader] Jerry Flowers, ‘We need this other person in the band. It’s not a DJ, it’s not a keyboard player, it’s not a percussionist, it’s not a utility guy, but it’s somehow all of those things wrapped up into one role. It’s not a programmer either, because everything is being done on the fly. Everything can happened in real time.’ He suggested Nathan, who started creating that thing which he calls the Phantom to do all the things we are able to do.”
Urban wrapped the preview with his current single, “Wasted Time.” His Ripcord World Tour 2016 will launch June 2 in Kansas City, Missouri.
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