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Urban has 'em swooning

Published Feb. 25, 2006

Nicole Kidman may have captured his heart, but Keith Urban's adoring fans aren't conceding defeat.

They came with their posters ("Kiss me so I know I'm not dreaming") and screamed and sang their hearts out Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"I look around and all I see is Tampa's love embracing me," Urban sang in response, altering the words to But for the Grace of God.

The 38-year-old Aussie brings together a winning combination of sex appeal and tender vulnerability with heart-melting blue eyes, shaggy hair and ever-present stubble (does he hide out for two days after shaving?).

And he can sing and play the guitar too. Friday he showed off his genre-busting talents, rocking the house with Days Go By, delivering corn pone country in Homespun Love and sending the mostly female audience into a swoon with the romantic ballads You'll Think of Me and Making Memories of Us that have made him a hit on adult contemporary radio.

Urban seems somewhat bemused by the adulation, but he milked the crowd for reaction with show-off guitar riffs and even took a trapeze ride over the crowd to a small rear stage. One lucky young woman named Alisa got to lie on the stage next to Urban while he sang You Look Good in My Shirt.

An extended encore included a cover of Brooks and Dunn's Brand New Man, a victory anthem for a man who has put behind him drug addictions and doubts about his career and found romance and stardom.

Friday's crowd of 13,898 is a sign of just how far the singer's star has risen, from opening act to arena headliner in less than two years. Just last year he performed for a crowd one sixth the size at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Texan Pat Green got the crowd going with his own style of laid-back country rock and twangy chatter about life on the road with Urban. "I'm up against the prettiest man in the world," he complained. Fans joined in on Baby Doll and swayed along to Green's signature song, Wave on Wave. Although he's a big hit on the Southwestern country circuit, Green's still trying to break out of the pack nationally. He had the Tampa fans shout his name back to him, apparently to ensure they won't forget it.

After tonight's Tallahassee concert, Urban is scheduled to take a break from touring to work on a new album. Rumor is that he plans to squeeze a wedding into the schedule sometime in the next few weeks. Kidman's been sporting a big diamond since Christmas.

If they're superstitious, they might want to wait a week or two. Getting married three days after he performed at the Forum didn't work out so great for Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger, the last big Nashville-Hollywood hookup.