July 20, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Keith Urban closes out Saturday's Faster Horses in megastar fashion

Keith Urban closed out the second day of the Faster Horses festival at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn Saturday night with a rollicking set before the weekend’s biggest crowd.

Urban and his band put on a crisp 105-minute show with a stellar production worthy of the country megastar. A massive LED lighting rig hung over the stage and poured down flashing lights on Urban like he was inside a microwave getting nuked.

Fans stretched far out into the field in front of the stage – deeper than for Tim McGraw the night before – as Urban performed hits from throughout his eight-album career. He unleashed several monster guitar solos over the course of the show, first during “Sweet Thing” and later during “I’m In” and “Stupid Boy.” Closer “Somebody Like You” found the Australian mixing in a piece of his fellow countrymen INXS’ “What You Need” before the song’s big send-off.

And it was a big send-off for the festival’s second day, a day which saw huge crowds – estimated at more than 20,000 – partying hard all day to good time sets by Chase Rice, Darius Rucker and emerging star Sam Hunt. Faster Horses wraps up Sunday with a dozen performances including sets by Ashley Monroe, Little Big Town and headliner Miranda Lambert.

Saturday at Faster Horses could be summed up succinctly by Rice’s late afternoon set. The North Carolina native’s odes to drinking and good times — “I Like Drinking Cause It’s Fun,” “Best Beers of Our Lives” — were exactly what the crowd was looking for heading into the fest’s penultimate night.

Rice kept the fun flowing with covers of Nelly’s “Country Grammar” and Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” (mixed with House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” no less), and the crowd – packed with girls in American flag bikini tops sitting atop boyfriends’ shoulders – responded with huge cheers and by hoisting their beers high in the air.

Midway through his set, Rice took a huge swig of Jack Daniels on stage, and he responded kindly to the chants of “U-S-A!” from the crowd. “Y’all are America-ing the (expletive) out of this concert right now,” he said.

As Rice wrapped up, up-and-comer Hunt took to the festival’s second stage, the tented Next From Nashville stage, and the crowd pumped their fists and jumped in place to his song “Leave the Night On.” Hunt’s set, the most electrifying second stage set of the weekend, felt like a discovery; if he comes back next year, he’ll no doubt migrate over to the fest’s main stage.

Rucker, who performed before Urban on the main stage, played a set of hits that included covers of Hank Williams, Jr. (“Family Tradition”), John Mellencamp (“Pink Houses”) and most of the Hootie and the Blowfish songs you still know by heart (“Time,” “Hold My Hand,” “Let Her Cry,” “I Only Wanna Be With You”). (Mellencamp popped up earlier in the day, too, when JT Hodges took on “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”)

Rucker is a pro and his set was warm and inviting, though Rice’s hip-hop laced bro country jams were a better fit for the audience and its amped-up mood.

The weekend’s weather has been solid, with Saturday’s afternoon clouds giving way to early evening sunshine. Sunday calls for a few clouds and highs in the low 80s, a fine day for some good times and country tunes.


Keith Urban sings Love's Poster Child to the country music fans during the Faster Horses Country Music Festival. / John M. Galloway / Special to The Detroit News