Keith Urban made it clear that Get Closer was more than just a name for his latest tour Saturday night, transforming word into deed during his show at the South Okanagan Events Centre last Saturday.
The Australian-born country star made a huge impression as he worked guitar, voice and crowd simultaneously, making it a memorable night for the 5,000 concert-goers packed into the SOEC. But for a few audience members, like Nikita Afonso, “memorable” isn’t a strong enough word.
“It was incredible. Singing in front of thousands is one of my dreams and he made it come true,” said the 17-year-old Penticton musician.
Afonso, along with classmate Ethan McCluskey and a girl from Kelowna, were singled out by Urban and asked to join him on stage.
While it might seem like picking one of Penticton’s best young musicians out of the crowd was too perfect to be a coincidence, Afonso said it was just Urban getting involved with the audience.
“He would hold out the microphone to the crowd,” said Afonso, describing how Urban first pulled McCluskey up from one side of the stage, then the Kelowna girl from the other, before returning to the centre where she was sitting.
“I was jumping up and down on my chair, holding a sign saying ‘Kiss me, I’m a girl,’” said Afonso. Her sign, referring to Urban’s hit, Kiss a Girl, was enough to draw his attention, and he called for the girl with the cowboy hat in the fourth row to join him on stage.
“I just lost it,” she said. Once all three audience members were on stage, Urban got them singing and asked the audience to cheer for their favourite. Afonso won, earning her a chance to sing a duet with Urban.
The sold-out house at the SOEC was by far the biggest audience Afonso has ever faced, but she is by no means a stranger to the stage. Still in Grade 12, Afonso has been performing at venues around the city, busking in the Farmer’s Market and even been featured in Kyle Anderson’s Thursday night showcases. She started learning to play the guitar at age 11, winning talent contests both in school and out.
Nor is she a stranger to Urban’s music. Country music, she said, is her favourite because it always tells some sort of a story or has a powerful message and she already covers a few of Urban’s songs for her own shows. In fact, she had just sung one of them earlier on Saturday at the Wild West Fest in Okanagan Falls.
“I do like his music a lot,” said Afonso, who had been telling her audience how excited she was to be going to Urban’s concert.
Whether this event will be a treasured memory or help the young musician’s career is a question for the future, but Afonso has hopes that Urban or someone in the audience was thinking of her potential as they listened to her sing.
And if making Afonso’s day wasn’t enough, Urban still had one more surprise for his audience up his sleeve. Later in the show, while singing on a small podium to one side of the main stage, Urban stepped into the audience, signing his guitar and presenting it to a 14-year-old audience member.
According to Afonso, the young teen was shocked into disbelief.
“She was surprised and asking ‘What am I supposed to be doing with it? Just holding it?’” said Afonso, who was amazed at how well Urban connected with the audience.
“Every inch of the arena felt his love,” she said. “Just getting to sing with him was enough.”