With the help of a few noisemaking friends — a few hundred thousand onlookers — Keith Urban roared with Nashville into a new decade.
“This is our roaring ’20s, for the next 10 years” proclaimed Urban, headliner of the annual Music City Midnight concert at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park.
More than an estimated 200,000 people joined Urban, Jason Isbell, Stevie Nicks and others at the annual New Year’s Eve concert, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation said early Wednesday. In its fourth year at Bicentennial Mall, the record-breaking attendance tops 2018 crowd estimates of about 175,000.
And those attending, or those watching live look-in shots on CNN or NBC, caught a show packed with a year supply of only-in-Nashville moments. A few highlights …
Edge of 2020
Urban wrapped 2019 by collaborating with two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame icon Stevie Nicks, who joined the show lineup last week. The pair teamed for a performance of classic Nicks and Tom Petty duet “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” and Fleetwood Mac cut “Second Hand News” before welcoming the new year with fireworks and 100 pounds (literally) of confetti.
After midnight, Nicks returned for an “Edge of 17” encore performance with Urban and company.
“This feels like the beginning of a damn fine year,” Urban said. “Stevie Nicks just joined our band.”
She wouldn’t be the only special guest during his set, either. Can’t-miss country upstart Ashley McBryde joined the band for a performance of her Grammy Award-nominated song “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” and a cover of Wynonna Judd’s “Nowhere Else on Earth.”
“There’s only one song I could think to close out my 2019,” McBryde said, kicking into “Nowhere Else …”.
A Star is 2019
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s hit flick “A Star Is Born” made a Nashville cameo Tuesday night, thanks to Americana favorite Jason Isbell and his band The 400 Unit.
Alongside songs familiar (“24 Frames,” “Super 8”) and new (“Overseas,” off an upcoming LP), Isbell tapped into “Last of My Kind,” a track penned for the 2018 musical melodrama that continues to catch award show buzz.
“I wrote (this song) for Bradley Cooper to sing in that movie,” Isbell said. “I never heard him sing before so I was terrified. Normally someone that good lookin’ can’t sing worth a damn, but I was wrong. He did a good job.”
Isbell offered “Last of My Kind” during a smooth set of his welcoming rock and folk-tinged storytelling. His eight-song outing included the howling closer “Never Gonna Change” and a stirring rendition of “Cover Me Up,” the latter catching headlines this season for cover versions bubbling into mainstream country.
“A lot of people like to sing (“Cover Me Up”) and they do a good job … but I made it up my damn self in my bedroom on Priest Lake,” Isbell said, noting he wrote the heartfelt love story for bandmate-wife Amanda Shires.
A remembrance medley
Urban’s set continued a makeshift New Year’s Eve tradition — launched during his tenure as Music City Midnight headliner — of paying homage to songwriters who died in the previous year.
He performed a seven-minute medley honoring The Cars’ Ric Ocasek with “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “You Might Think,” The Monkees’ Peter Tork with “I’m A Believer,” Cream’s Ginger Baker with “Sunshine of Your Love,” Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson with “It Must Have Been Love” and more.
The Struts kick down the year
A rare out-of-towner on the New Year’s Eve bill, transatlantic rock torchbearer The Struts shot a jolt of amplified energy into the concert ground.
Accurately described by show emcee Storme Warren as equal parts Freddie Mercury and Tim Curry, band frontman Luke Spiller dished a gooey dose of rock ‘n’ roll bombast during the set.
The British outfit spun, jumped, danced and led park-sized singalongs to neo-glam anthems such as “Could Have Been Me” and “One Night Only.” The Struts scored a bit of help from Urban, too, who hopped on stage for a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and a jam of new Struts original “Low Key In Love.”
Break out the Shires
Prior to The Struts, essential Nashville songwriter Amanda Shires kicked off her solo set with fitting 2018 number “Break Out The Champagne.”
Her set — anchored by songs off the excellent 2018 LP “To the Sunset,” such as the vibrant opener “Parking Lot Pariouette” — teased what Shires hopes 2020 brings for her other project: vital country supergroup The Highwomen. The group features Shires, Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby.
Shires performed “Highwomen” and “Don’t Call Me,” both off the group’s acclaimed debut.
“One of my New Year’s resolutions is for us to go on tour,” she said.
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