Keith Urban became the latest artist to kick off a residency in Las Vegas earlier this month when he brought his high-octane show to the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.
His 12-date residency, which he already says he’d love to extend, runs through Nov. 21, and he joins such acts as Brooks & Dunn/Reba McEntire, Rod Stewart, The Who, Mariah Carey and Sting in rotation throughout the year at the 4,100-seat venue.
Urban’s 100-minute show features a slew of hits and some surprises, but equally impressive is the production. He is backed by a stage-spanning LED screen and a floating rectangular bar that serves as a lighting rig at times and other times a prop.
The country superstar talked with Billboard on Jan. 18, the afternoon after his third show at the venue, about his and wife Nicole Kidman’s love of Las Vegas, the intimacy (and weirdness) that his Colosseum show allows and what he’s listening to right now.
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
You did a test run here in September. How did that convince you to do the residency?
We played this room so I could get a feel for it. It’s actually three venues in one. It’s got an arena stage and the stage is ginormous. It’s crazy how big it is up there. It’s got a lot of theater seating, but it’s got a club floor because it’s all general admission on the floor — so three of my absolute favorite kind of venues to play all rolled into one. Putting the show together was and is still a lot of fun to do because you can play around a lot and we can change it up from night to night too.
Did you see any shows in Las Vegas that helped make you decide you were ready to do this?
We come to a lot of shows, Nic and I, in Vegas, so I’ve been fortunate to see a lot. Whether I’m playing here or whether I’m playing anywhere, I’m always probably putting on the kind of show I’d like to see in a show and moments that I’d like to see in a show. There’s sometimes things I’ve seen at people’s shows that I’m like, “That’s a good idea! I’ll take a bit of that and twist it a bit.” But a lot of the times it’s things that I didn’t see at someone’s show.
A lot of things that we do in our show are things that I was doing way back in my club days. I just didn’t have the production or the venue to have it be fulfilled properly. Coming out in the crowd and singing in the middle of the room, I was doing that when I was playing clubs. You know, standing up on the bar or some rickety table.
What are some of the most memorable shows you’ve seen here?
Cirque du Soleil shows. I’ve seen maybe a half-dozen of those. We saw the Michael Jackson show [One], we saw David Copperfield, Criss Angel. We’ve seen everything from comedy to over-the-top shows. J.Lo’s show. We love going to everything.
There’s still artists who might have some hesitancy about playing Las Vegas. What advice would you give them?
Vegas always feels like it’s in transition. It’s evolving and moving and shape-shifting and changing. And it’s not the Vegas it was. Even the idea of doing a residency has changed over the years. I think there was a time when everyone just thought, well, that’s where you go when you’re at the end of your career — “we’re going to go to Vegas.” It’s definitely not that. You see everybody here, wherever they are in their careers. But what I was excited about was this venue specifically. To me, it’s just an amazing place to play.
Most artists that I’ve talked to who live in LA, they go back and forth every night. What are you doing?
Right now I’m going back and forth a little bit. This is only the third show. But I love being able to go back and forth if I can. I went back last night, but last week I stayed down the first night and worked on some things the next day. It just depends if we need to work on things as well.
What’s the last thing you do before you go onstage?
I keep loose. The thing is to just stay loose. Matt Chamberlain, a great drummer who plays on a lot of our stuff, I was at his studio the other day and he had a cassette deck. He just bought this old boombox and he wanted to make sure it worked.
So he found a tape. The only cassette that he found was a whole Hulk Hogan’s Hulkamania workout from 1985. It’s a riot. So I found a copy of that and we cranked it backstage and we did this ridiculous workout with the band with Hulk. It’s beyond absurd, I mean, in all the right ways. It’s heightened. So I went crazy on that. And then last night, I was cranking up Elvis performing in Vegas, doing a song called “Patch It Up” with the band just going nuts. It was good inspiration.
My tour manager has done a lot of things in his career. The best one is, at one of these Vegas runs, he was the guy offstage responsible for feeding the mic cord out to Elvis and then pulling it back in. And so that’s pretty awesome.
Because of the small size of the venue, you’re able to interact with so many people, including pulling them up onstage and responding to their signs. What’s the best sign you’ve seen since you’ve been in Vegas?
It’s all very spontaneous. Someone last night had a sign that said “I have a scrunchie to give you. Will you accept it?” I didn’t quite know what that was. Well, I know what a scrunchie is, but by all accounts [the sign was] an offering to become boyfriend and girlfriend. [Laughs]
After the show is over, you stay onstage and sign autographs. Someone literally gave you the shirt off their back to sign last night. What’s the strangest thing you’ve been asked to sign since your residency started?
Whenever I can stay afterwards and sign, I always do if I don’t have to make a flight or be somewhere at a certain time and can hang. People come from other countries sometimes and they’re here to see the show and this is their moment. The weirdest thing so far here is somebody in the meet and greet the other day asked me to sign their nose, which I didn’t do.
Last night you performed a bit of Post Malone’s “Circles.” What else is in current rotation in your head right now?
I love “Circles.” I love that whole Post Malone album. I love Selena [Gomez’s] new song called “Rare.” Such a good lyric, great record. “Blinding Lights,” The Weeknd. There’s a lot of good music happening right now.
When can we expect a new tour and album?
Still working on touring plans right now and in the studio still working on music, but there’s a lot of it coming because I’ve been in there since January 2019. So going on over a year now that I’ve been working on lots and lots of music. We’ll just figure out what comes out when and how, but I’m just jonesing to get it out and we’ll slip things into this show too. Another great thing about having this show is it’s primed and ready for me to slip in new songs and even before they’re released, I bet we start doing a few here.