By Jeff Zrebiec and Carrie Wells, The Baltimore Sun
8:59 PM EDT, August 4, 2013
Baltimore won’t get to host the Sept. 5 NFL regular-season opener, but it will get Keith Urban.
The Grammy-winning country music star will perform a live, free concert in the Inner Harbor on Sept. 5 as a lead-in to the Ravens’ game in Denver against the Broncos that night.
Urban will sing from a floating stage in the Inner Harbor in an area adjacent to the Maryland Science Center as part of NBC’s “NFL Kickoff 2013 Presented by Pepsi” pre-game show. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. and run until the 8:30 p.m. kickoff time of the Ravens-Broncos game, a rematch of a thrilling AFC divisional playoff in January. The Ravens won that game, 38-35, in double overtime on their way to the franchise’s second Super Bowl victory.
The concert will culminate a weeklong celebration of the start of the 2013 football season and honor the Ravens, who will become the first reigning champions to open the following season on the road since 2003. Since then, it’s become a tradition for the NFL to have the Super Bowl winner host the regular-season opener. However, a scheduling conflict between the Ravens and the Orioles, who are scheduled to host the Chicago White Sox the night of Sept. 5, forced the league to alter its plans and move the game to Denver.
On the same night the concert brings an NFL presence to Baltimore and downtown businesses hope for a boost from the event, the Orioles will be competing to draw fans to Camden Yards as the team fights to earn a playoff spot in the season’s last month.
The Orioles did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.
Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, said the concert, which will be televised nationally as part of an hourlong show leading up to the Ravens-Broncos game, will showcase the Inner Harbor and help boost the city’s image.
“We were delighted when we heard the news of the concert,” he said. “There’s nothing better to champion the world-class Ravens than to have a world-class concert on our harbor.”
Fowler said it “would have been better” to have the Ravens play the first game in Baltimore, “but given the circumstances, this is the next best thing that could happen.”
Meanwhile, businesses around the Inner Harbor are hoping the concert will help draw customers before and after Urban’s performance.
“I’m sure it’ll bring people down,” said Marci Rubin, a manager at Phillips Seafood. Around the time of the Super Bowl, Rubin said, “the city was insane, and the Ravens weren’t even here. People are super excited — hopefully, they’ll want to celebrate it with Keith.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she hoped the event would reignite enthusiasm among Baltimore sports fans.
“I still remember the excitement from the Super Bowl parade. I'm sure that spirit will overflow during the weeks leading up to the season opener,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “The NFL has special events planned, and I plan to share in the festivities with Ravensnation.”
The previously scheduled Orioles game wasn’t the only conflict that led to the Sept. 5 Ravens game being moved to Denver. The NFL had earmarked that date for its opener because the league did not want to play the game a night earlier, on the first night of the Rosh Hashanah.
The Ravens and Orioles discussed several potential scenarios to allow both games to go on in Baltimore that day, including a potential baseball/football doubleheader. However, logistical issues, such as parking — the teams share stadium lots — proved too much to overcome, leading the NFL to announce in late March that the Ravens would open on the road Sept. 5 and delaying the team’s unveiling of its Super Bowl championship banner at M&T Bank Stadium until the Sept. 15 game against the Cleveland Browns.
Baltimore sports fans had mixed reactions to the news, with some saying the Orioles and Major League Baseball should have done more to accommodate an NFL season opener in the city, and others arguing that the baseball team had every right to stick to plans for a game that had been scheduled much earlier.
Still others wondered why the NFL refused to move the game up a day — the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions had played a Sunday night game on the first night of Rosh Hashanah in 2012. The league and the Ravens said at the time that local Jewish groups opposed having the game in Baltimore on Sept. 4.
Even without a football game to accompany it, the NFL vowed to hold the traditional kickoff concert — and the pomp and circumstance that comes with it — in Baltimore, giving Ravens fans one more opportunity to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl victory before the start of the 2013 campaign.
It will be the second time Urban, a judge on “American Idol” and the husband of actress Nicole Kidman, will perform in an NFL kickoff concert. He joined Natasha Bedingfield and Usher as the pre-game entertainment in 2008 when the New York Giants opened the season against the Washington Redskins. Previous kickoff acts have included Mariah Carey, Kid Rock, Dave Matthews Band and John Mellencamp.
Urban is currently headlining a tour with fellow country acts Little Big Town and Dustin Lynch and will be playing Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia on Thursday.
The kickoff concert will feature music from Urban’s newest album, “Fuse,” which will be released Sept. 10, before he gives way to Danielle Bradbery, the winner of the fourth season of NBC’s “The Voice,” who will sing the national anthem live from Denver.
Simulcast coverage of the 60-minute pre-game show will air from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on NBC and the NFL Network.
Details about the concert, such as specific entry points and when fans can access the concert area, will be released by the NFL soon.
The league will also announce other activities in the downtown Baltimore area for the days leading up to the game, including youth football clinics and a kickoff village that will include various sponsor kiosks for fans. The NFL has already announced plans for a “Back to Football” run Sept. 4, which will start and finish at M&T Bank Stadium.
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun