Maren Morris’ recent opening slot on Keith Urban’s Ripcord tour at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena served as a victory lap for the “My Church” singer. On Friday, Nov. 11, Morris triumphantly returned to perform on the same stage where she earned the trophy for CMA’s Best New Artist on Nov. 2.
“I cried enough at the CMAs last week, so I’ll keep it together,” Morris told the crowd.
She recognized several of the songwriters who worked with her on her debut project Hero, including co-writer and producer busbee.
Offering songs including “80s Mercedes,” “Love Song,” and “Once,” she worked the stage with a casual confidence that belied her newcomer status.
The crowd stayed with her all the way through to her set closer, “My Church.” Her rendition Friday evening stayed closer to the song’s original honky-tonk, bluesy blend than her ultra soulful, McCrary Sisters-backed CMA version, but teased the strength in her voice’s upper range.
Eldredge brought a more frenetic style of energy as he worked the stage with his string of hits including “Lose My Mind,” “Drunk On Your Love,” and a smattering of album cuts.
Though the dance-driven tracks gave the audience plenty of room to party on a Friday night, Eldredge was perhaps at his best backed only by an acoustic guitar, a musical setting that allowed his graceful, controlled voice to shine.
“I was going to [Middle Tennessee State University],” recalled Eldredge. “I would play bars with literally two people. I loved writing songs and just wanted to write songs that would touch people.”
As he serenaded the crowd with “If You Were My Girl” and “Mean To Me,” (the song’s lyric about fireflies highlighted by the glow of thousands of cell phone lights across the arena), it was clear Eldredge had met his goal.
The decibel levels cranked back to 10 as he offered hits “Beat of the Music” and his first No. 1, “Don’t Ya.”
“This year has been incredible,” Eldredge said, before thanking Urban for including him on the tour. “Keith is the best person on the planet. This is my second tour with Keith. Thank you to this whole town that had my back and stuck by me.”
Banjo picking and thumping bass ushered in headliner Urban for “Gone Tomorrow, Here Today,” followed by his hit “Long Hot Summer.”
Flanked by his longtime band of ace musicians, Urban’s boyish enthusiasm and well-known musicianship served as an undercurrent for a string of hit songs mixed with tracks from his ripcord project.
Urban dipped far back into his catalog for 2001’s “Where The Blacktop Ends,” indulging in the song’s rock leanings with an abundance of electric fretwork to freshen up the track.
Similarly, “You Gonna Fly” got a more grungy and funky treatment. A hazy, dreamy guitar interlude introduced one of Urban’s quirkier love songs, “Cop Car.”
It being Veteran’s Day, Urban also took time to thank those who have served in the military.
Songs were heightened by tasteful lighting, such as a disco ball illuminating the audience with blue light during “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” or subtly incorporating shattering glass visuals during “Break On Me.”
Urban also welcomed Carrie Underwood…via a screen, that is. Images of Underwood singing her part on “Fighter” played as Urban took center stage The song’s mix may have been the only glitch of the evening, as the thumping music nearly overpowered the vocals to become a din of noise, rather than a groove-driven dance party.
Making his way to a satellite stage at the rear of the arena, Urban remarked what every fan in the “cheap seats” must have been thinking: “Who’s got the good seats now?” he yelled.
Morris returned to the stage later in the evening during Urban’s set, looking every inch the star while taking on Miranda Lambert’s part in “We Were Us.” Meanwhile, Eldredge joined Urban on the satellite stage for “Somebody Like You.”
Earlier in the evening, Urban teased another special guest would join near the end of the show, and he made good on his promise, welcoming recent CMA winner, Eric Church for a collaboration on Church’s “Record Year.” Church’s Mr. Misunderstood won Album of the Year honors at last week’s 50th annual CMA Awards. They followed with last year’s collaboration “Raise ‘Em Up.”
Urban has built his career on ace musicianship, songs that wear well over the years, and constant connection with every fan. He stayed true to that maxim, staying at the end of his set to shake hands with those in the front rows.
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