Review of Josh Groban: Live at the Greek
By Jerry McCulley
If Josh Groban's unabashedly melodramatic musical fusion inspires grousing on both sides of the classical/pop pundit divide, the screams of the (mostly) young female fans that punctuate these 2004 performances at L.A.'s historic Greek theater better underscore the real point. This set's CD and more expansive DVD complement each other well; if anything, supplemented by a live string ensemble and crack backing band, they're a warmer, more focused showcase for the singer's talents than the studio albums that made his meteoric fame. In peak form, Groban variously delivers forceful renditions of his pop-operatic powerhouses "Canto Alla Vita" and "Anna Luce Del Sole" (the former featuring a drum solo [!] from Groban, the latter a fine guest turn by Bela Fleck on banjo), takes a surprising solo piano break on Paul Simon's "America," waxes Central Asian on Troy's "Remember" and brings the crowd to its feet with the heart-on-his-sleeve dramatics of Closer's "Never Let Go." They're all informed by the singer's insouciant, youthful enthusiasm, arguing that Groban is gifted with more than just a magnificent voice; he's a complete natural as a performer as well. The DVD also includes a tour diary narrated with typical charm by the singer, as well as bonus live performance of "Believe" from the Polar Express soundtrack.
Josh Groban's 2002 PBS "Great Performances" special was a #1 selling DVD and the best-selling long-form music video of 2003. His second "Great Performances" special, taped at L.A.'s Greek Theater this summer, will be broadcast this holiday season. For fans if the young sophisticated pop phenomenon who has sold more than 8 million albums to date, this CD+DVD package is just the latest great performance in the career of Josh Groban.