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Keith Urban: CMA Fest Cheerleader

Keith Urban performs at the Nightly Concerts at LP Field on Friday, June 11 in Downtown Nashville during the 2010 CMA Music Festival. Photographer: Donn Jones / CMA.

Keith Urban performs at the Nightly Concerts at LP Field on Friday, June 11 in Downtown Nashville during the 2010 CMA Music Festival. Photographer: Donn Jones / CMA.

When fans look back on the 2010 CMA Music Festival, one of the sonic moments they’re likely to remember collectively will be the close of Keith Urban’s Friday-night set at Nashville’s LP Field, where he put together an all-star ensemble for a Beatles cover.

Keith brought out a horn section led by Kenny Chesney sideman Jim Horn, keyboard players Tony Brown and Tim Akers and a group of background vocalists that included Sarah Buxton and Little Big Town members Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman for a version of “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Footage of last month’s Tennessee flood — and of neighbors helping each other through it — ran across the video screen in the back, underscoring the song’s communal theme.

Watch it here:

Keith did the song twice for a film crew that was taping the stadium shows for the Sept. 1 ABC special “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night To Rock.” Nashville’s recovery from the disaster is likely to be an undercurrent in the special, in part because it’s an example of a city that pulled together to help itself.

“It feels a little bit like the jazz festival did when we played down in New Orleans after Katrina,” Keith observed backstage. “It gives a different celebratory essence to the festival this year. For me, it’s all about community. Country music is hard to define musically because it ebbs and it flows in and around, just like it always has done, but I think the one constant is the communal feeling in country music and it’s never been more apparent than recently.”

In addition to “With A Little Help From My Friends,” Keith played five more songs for the throng of 40,000, sticking to good-time material. He essentially took the role of Dr. Feelgood as he unleashed “Kiss A Girl,” “Days Go By,” “Sweet Thing,” “I’m In” and “Somebody Like You.” That upbeat set list reflected his feelings about the festival, which brings fans from around the world to hear a stunning volume of music and get a chance to meet some of their favorite stars.

The ticket buyers love it, but so does Keith, who was buoyed by “the random sort of happenings of fans being able to run up to your car at traffic lights and throw CDs in the window, things like that. I just like the energy that happens in town during this week. There’s a place in Australia called Tamworth, which is like a small version of this, but it’s the country music center of Australia, and they have a festival every year in January and it’s that same feeling. [CMA Fest is] much, much bigger, but it’s the same feeling, sort of like a huge family gathering. So I love it.”

The weekend worked out incredibly for Keith, who played three NFL stadiums in three days. In addition to Friday’s gig at LP Field, the home of the Tennessee Titans, he appeared with the Eagles and the Dixie Chicks Thursday at the New Meadowlands Stadium, which hosts the New York Jets and New York Giants. Saturday, he rejoined the Eagles and the Chicks at Gillette Stadium, the home turf for the New England Patriots.

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