There’s one immutable thing about Keith Urban – he never phones in a performance. Not for a concert, not for a TV special, and certainly not for the annual benefit show, Stars for Second Harvest. The reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year headlined Stars for Second Harvest, Tuesday night (June 4), at the Ryman Auditorium, and blistered through a hit-filled set that had the packed house rocking and hollering.
The 15th annual Stars for Second Harvest Presented by O’Charleys was again emceed by famed songwriter Craig Wiseman, who basically spearheaded the idea for the concert. Proceeds from the show benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, which works to solve hunger needs in the community. Wiseman also welcomed a stellar lineup of special guests, featuring songwriters Lee Thomas Miller and Michael Hardy, who performs under the singularly-named HARDY. Rounding out the bill were rising newcomer Madison Kozak, and 12-year-old singing sensation Mason Ramsey.
Wiseman kicked off the evening with some special thanks to O’Charleys, stage sponsor Nissan North America and Second Harvest’s President and CEO Jaynee Day, who is retiring this year. He then brought out Hardy and Lee Thomas Miller to join him for an acoustic set of their most famous tunes. Hardy led with “Up Down,” his hit for Morgan Wallen, while Miller chose the tear-inducing “You’re Gonna Miss This,” written for Trace Adkins. Miller proved an engaging, humorous performer, delighting the audience with tales of his three children. Wiseman told a funny, interesting story behind his hit for Kenny Chesney, “Summertime,” recalling how Chesney asked to change one of the words. Hardy enjoyed a huge success this year with his co-write for Blake Shelton, “God’s Country,” and gave a stirring rendition of the smash hit. The crowd engaged in a group sing-along when Wiseman cranked up “Live Like You Were Dying,” the timeless tune he co-wrote for Tim McGraw.
Up-and-comer Kozak performed “Graduation Day” and other selections to rounds of applause. But some of the loudest cheers were reserved for Ramsey, the diminutive 12-year-old whose oversized white cowboy hat appears to be bigger than he is. He showcased a rangy vocal beyond his years with his rendition of the classic “Lovesick Blues,” featuring his incredible yodeling skills, and other tunes including “The Way I See It.”
When Keith Urban took the stage, the excitement reverberated throughout the Ryman. And though he wasn’t playing a full-blown concert, Urban gave it everything he had. He started off on bass, with the intro to “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” getting the house in a party mood. “Oh, you’re spirited!” Urban exclaimed. He proceeded to put on a show that should serve as a lesson to all aspiring performers. Urban worked all sides of the Ryman stage, wielding his guitar like a natural extension of himself. The energy he displayed can best be described as “boundless.”
Urban treated the crowd to his hits including “Blue Ain’t Your Color” and “Somebody Like You,” before segueing into the Steve Miller Band rock classic, “The Joker.” There was hardly a fan in the house – young, old, male, female – who didn’t know the words to this favorite. Perfect way to end a set.
As always, the big winner for the night was Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. Over the 15 years of the benefit concert, more than one million dollars has been raised for the organization.