Ontario, Canada, has no shortage of pop and rock stars, and the 45,000 fans assembled at the Rogers Centre in Toronto last night could have been forgiven for expecting Taylor Swift to introduce Drake or the Weeknd as her special guests three-quarters of the way through her set. (Their parents might have been hoping for Neil Young or Gordon Lightfoot.)
Instead, she reached back to her roots, bringing out a man utterly familiar with sharing the spotlight with a gorgeous woman tall enough to play point guard for the Raptors.
“Someone absolutely incredible is about to come out on the stage,” Swift announced as the crowd shrieked in anticipation. “This is someone who has sold 20 million records. This is someone who, more importantly, is an amazing human being. I actually opened up for his tour years ago. He’s been so wonderful to me. He’s one of the most talented people who’s ever been born. Toronto, Keith Urban is here to see you.”
Sauntering onstage in all black with an electric guitar slung around his neck, Urban, wearing an easy smile and his trademark bob, broke into the opening lines of his latest chart-topper, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” handing the microphone briefly to Swift so she could spit out the word “Chevy” as they strolled down a long catwalk into the crowd. Swift, herself dressed in an ebony, skin-windowed unitard, joined in for harmony on the chorus and sang the first half of the second verse, but mostly played the role of hype girl, as has been customary during this nightly element of her show.
The pair followed with Urban’s classic hit “Somebody Like You,” recorded back when his hair color was closer to Swift’s. With the Aussie axman cranking out licks alongside her, Swift struck the pose of a more traditional frontwoman, wailing her way through the chorus as fireworks blasted in the background. As the crowd’s energy surged, so too did Swift’s; here were moments when she just seemed to be a giddy fan of Urban’s, providing a fleeting glimpse of the squiggly-curled teen who dreamed of conquering Nashville. As it turns out, the breadth of her empire can now only be taken in from outer space.