By Clive Young.
New York City’s threadbare Penn Station is about as urban as it gets, so perhaps it was fitting that Keith Urban kicked off promotion there for his new album, Get Closer, on November 16. Catching morning commuters off-guard, the country star played a surprise four-song set in the Amtrak waiting area, before hopping a train to Philadelphia to play another gig in the city of Brotherly Love.
Supporting Urban’s enterprise was a small system from S.I.R. based around a Midas Venice console, an Anchor Beacon line array system and four L-Acoustics 108P loudspeakers—more than enough for the artist and his drum machine.
“We finally made it to Penn Station; to heck with Madison Square Garden,” he greeted the crowd, referring to the famous arena located directly above the station. "We've got a new record coming out today and we thought, what better way to celebrate it than to busk at Penn Station. But you don’t have to throw money—that’s the good part about this musician today.”
Joking that he’d play a set of train songs, Urban instead rolled through “Days Go By,” played his new single “Put You in a Song,” crooned the ballad “Only You Can Love Me This Way,” and closed things out with the upbeat “Somebody Like You.”
Tailing Urban for the day’s gigs was a mini crew from Foglight Films; wrangling its audio was Jeff Santana using a Sound Devices 788T multi-track digital audio recorder with the CL-8 controller attachment and an assortment of Lectrosonics wireless. “I also have the Schoeps CMIT 5U shotgun mic, which is surprisingly awesome,” he said. “It gets the most clear, true response of any shotgun mic that I’ve used in the field. It’s a very stripped down set up. I got eight tracks, but I’m only using five right now—one guy with a microphone, guitar, drum machine and a little board feed of everything for posterity.
“I work at Gotham Sound here in New York and we rent out all kinds of audio equipment, but today I’m freelancing for Foglight Films, which covers Takeaway Shows, and it’s a novel idea—we do live, intimate music video performances that are very stripped down, just one camera man, one sound man, one case, that’s it. We just started a few months ago and have been getting bigger and bigger jobs. We did The Walkmen playing the New York Public Library, a band called Small Black in an abandoned building in the financial district. Now it’s Keith Urban in Penn Station and later on Philadelphia Station, plus we’ll shoot in a train car and cover some of that along the way. It’ll be a test to see if we can last all day!”
And with that, Urban yelled to the crowd, “Thank you for missing your train today!” and hopped off-stage to go catch his own.