Groban Grabs Attention: Singer’s "In Concert" Sure to Please Fans
The Southwest Times Record
December 5, 2002
Josh Groban gave into peer pressure once, and it has paid off a thousand times over.

That moment of his life didn't bring him an introduction to booze, drugs, and other debaucheries, nor did it see him sacrifice his creative vision for the love of money and power. Instead, Groban joined his Los Angeles school choir, basically, as he says, because "everyone else was doing it." It was the first time he felt the powerful pull of music, and it has yet to free him from its grasp.

Now 21 and a bona fide star still reeling from the runaway success of his self-titled debut CD from last year, Groban has returned with "In Concert," a CD and DVD package that features seasonal music from his special that recently aired on PBS Television. As always, Groban's baritone, which can boom like thunder just as easily as it can sound as weightless as a faint breeze, is much more mature than a 21-year-old performer's voice has the right to be.

Neither boy band material, nor a stomping rap-metalhead, Groban has a voice that's more in common with the vibrato-laced style of opera king Luciano Pavarotti than Justin Timberlake or Linkin Park. Groban's mature pipes are almost flawless throughout the eight songs on the CD and the 14 selections on the DVD, which is a big plus for fans but could be a damaging minus for those who subscribe to edgier performers.

Groban gets his audience into the Christmas spirit right from the starting gate with "Un Amore Per Sempre" and "Alejate," the first two numbers on the CD that find the singer feeling blessed but unable to escape the shadow of a melancholy mood. His seemingly trained voice is carefully balanced with flowing acoustic guitar leads and recurring orchestral swells on the songs, and Groban appears completely at ease as he commands the attention of the gazing viewers. The professional-sounding backup band and Groban's note-perfect renditions of movie master conductor John Williams' "For Always" and singer/songwriter Don McLean's "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)" will come dangerously close to thinking they're listening to a studio recording. It's only in between the numbers that the otherwise-disciplined audience erupts with roars of approval.

Also giving Groban a pat on the back on the CD and DVD are some well respected guest artists, including Williams on "For Always." The song was Groban's vocal debut that was recorded for the Steven Spielberg movie "A.I. Artificial Intelligence."

Singer Angie Stone joins Groban in the spotlight for "The Prayer," followed by the appearance of acclaimed violinist Lili Haydn on "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." Haydn bows beautifully through the complex musical piece, adding a needed dimension to Groban's pipes.

On the DVD, Andrea Corr, lead singer of The Corrs and one of the stars of the films "The Commitments" and "Evita," lends her unique voice to "Canto Alla Vita" as Haydn's violin all but carries the strong melody. The video portion also includes the tracks "Alla Luce Del Sole," "You're Still You," "Let me Fall," "Home to Stay" and Richard Marx's "To Where You Are," all recorded during the PBS concert.

The last five years - basically a quarter of Groban's life - have been kind to this artist. He had the good fortune of learning the ropes as a protégé to Grammy-winning producer David Foster, who co-produced the new CD and DVD with Humberto Gatica. Recently, The New York Times crowned Groban "The New Boy Wonder of Voice," and he appeared in the 2001 season finale of "Ally McBeal."

Few can contest the quality and surprising depth of Groban's voice, although it might be a bit too technical and clean for some pop and rock fans who like their tuned sprinkled with a bit more grit. But then again, those aren't the people who scooped up Groban's debut CD by the truckloads and turned a curly-headed kid singer into an hero of adult contemporary music.

For The Record
JOSH GROBAN
Title: “In Concert”
Format: CD & DVD Package
Label: Warner Reprise
Genere: Pop/Adult Contemporary
Grade: B