By David Perry
July 2 turned out to be a fairy-tale night for Rob Joyce. The music business major had just turned 24 and the tickets to Keith Urban’s concert at the 8,000-capacity Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, N.H., were the perfect gift.
Accompanying him to the show was his girlfriend of a year-and-a-half, Alexandra Wright.
Pressed up near the stage, Wright held up a sign noting it was Rob’s birthday, begging Urban to let him play guitar, on stage. Wright filmed it all.
Urban spotted them and complied. What followed went viral, making Joyce an internet star.
Joyce strapped on Urban’s guitar and picked his way into the up-tempo rocker “Good Thing,” astounding both the crowd and Urban with his six-string fluency. The band, which had retreated offstage while Urban did his audience shtick, headed back on and joined in.
Urban posted a post-show video laden with kudos for Joyce, “a massive shout-out of awesomeness to Rob, you killed it tonight on guitar!”
“It’s been an amazing, amazing week,” said Joyce from Maine, where he is vacationing with Wright’s family. “Surreal. Like a dream I haven’t woken from yet.”
“From the moment he began to play, it was clear to the audience, to the band and most importantly to Keith Urban that Rob was playing at the level of a top professional,” says Alan Williams, chair of the Music Department and coordinator of the music business program. He says Joyce played with “total command, confidence and poise.”
Williams says “owning the moment” is something stressed to students. “Rob certainly did us proud,” he noted, and “didn’t crumple, never had an unsure moment, just delivered with ease as if he played for thousands of people every night.”
“Oh, I’ve seen Keith Urban a bunch of times,” Joyce says. “I’ve always watched him play – live, on video – and I study the way he plays. He’s been my No. 1 favorite.”
Urban seems to have a thing for UMass Lowell students. Two years ago, the country singer plucked twin sisters Laura and Elizabeth Kender ’16 from the crowd when he saw their sign touting UMass Lowell Lacrosse.
Joyce, who lives in Berlin, has been playing guitar since he was 10, and transferred to UMass Lowell from Anna Maria College in Paxton. (He also met Wright here, he notes.)
“I wanted to do music. I always have. And I kept hearing what a great music program Lowell has. So I transferred and it has been great. My ultimate goal has always been to get to Nashville and play. Now more than ever.”
For now, he’s playing solo gigs, including at Hudson House in Hudson.
Thanks to social media, his performance has been seen by millions of people around the globe. He’s been interviewed by country radio stations and news publications and he’s been featured on national news broadcasts.
“That ended up being a good birthday. The best! Keith Urban was the ultimate guy I’d want to perform with. So, yeah, it can only be all downhill from here.”