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High-energy WE Fest

Keith Urban let the WE Fest crowd rush the stage during his performance Thursday night. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers1 / 2
Eeddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry. (Brian Basham/Record)2 / 2

From the moment he hit the stage Thursday night, belting out his rocking hit "Kiss A Girl," to his final encore, "Better Life," Keith Urban held the WE Fest crowd in the palm of his hand.

They clapped, they cheered, they sang along -- and sometimes, they even sang a phrase or two for him, while Urban held the microphone outward, an unabashed grin on his face.

"Some performers want crowds to sit and listen to music and be on their best behavior... polite, disciplined," he said before breaking into the sweet harmonies of his 2008 hit, 'Sweet Thing.'

"This is not one of those concerts," he added. "We want you to be on your baddest behavior."

It was the right thing to say, as the audience roared in approval.

Urban's considerable guitar skills were on display throughout his two-hour set, but it was on his No. 1 hit "You Look Good in My Shirt" that he really let it rip, even breaking out an electric guitar that came complete with flashing red, white and blue lights.

The crowd ate it up, and Urban fed off their energy, at one point jumping off the stage and walking out into the sea of cheering fans, where he continued to perform for several minutes before heading back up to the stage again.

Urban's set was the capper to a rousing opening night at WE Fest that saw near-capacity crowds rocking to the beat of Montgomery Gentry, following the late afternoon Fest debuts of Gloriana and Randy Houser. (Fargo band 32 Below opened the day's concert festivities on the main stage.)

In fact, there were so many people who showed up during the evening that it briefly created a "traffic jam" of people at the east gate, prompting a request for the audience to move toward the other side of the concert bowl.

Montgomery Gentry was also a big hit Thursday night. Singer-guitarist Troy Gentry showed off his skills on the strings, as singer Eddie Gentry catered to the crowd, moving from side to side, twirling his microphone stand and frequently pointing it toward the crowd, inviting them to join the party.

Which they did, singing -- and sometimes shouting -- along with anthems like "Hell Yeah," 'Something to Be Proud Of," "One In Every Crowd" and "'What Do Ya Think About That."

The duo's energetic encore began with a hard-rocking cover of KISS's "Rock and Roll All Night," before they drew their set to a close with their own chart-topper, "Gone."

Also at Thursday night's show, Sugarland was announced as the third headliner for the 2011 WE Fest, joining the previously announced Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454