Groban Moves Audience With His Romantic Repertoire
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
February 8, 2004
By Elaine Schmidt
Josh Groban sings. That's it. No glitzy costumes, patented dance moves or crooning back-up singers.

The 22-year-old baritone ambles to center stage and sings with the sort of voice one expects from a Broadway romantic lead. He performs with a straightforward delivery that commands attention in the same way a whisper grabs more attention than a shout.

Groban played to a sold-out Milwaukee Theatre Sunday evening, singing a program of ballads and sentimental numbers set to sweeping, if somewhat gooey, orchestrations. He was backed by a five-piece band, a solo violinist and an orchestra of local strings and harp.

Groban sings a very romantic repertoire in an old-fashioned, stand-and-deliver style. He clutches the microphone, barely moving as he sings. His "choreography" is limited to occasional walks across the stage and up a flight of stairs.

He admits a fondness for sad songs, and reflects that in his program. Numbers like "My Confession" and "Mi Mancherai" are written and orchestrated to tug at the heartstrings. Looking at the moist eyes of his audience, it apparently works.

Flowing lighting effects, aided by scrims and platforms at various levels, give the show some visual interest.

Although his repertoire ranges from Italian film songs to contemporary ballads and a cover of Don McLean's "Vincent," there is a sameness in tempo and delivery to everything he sings. But there is also an simplicity and earnestness to his performance, combined with a gentle face and soft-spoken manner that make the programming work for his audience.

Groban's Milwaukee program included "Caruso," super-titled in English, "Remember When It Rained," "To Where You Are" and "Let Me Fall," which ended with him toppling backward from a high platform in a carefully staged fall. He included a weepy "Broken Vow."

The appeal of Groban's performance is the simplicity and directness of his performance combined with his complete lack of Hollywood affectation or MTV overkill. He is the boy next door with a three-language repertoire and the ability to milk a sad song.

That appeal clearly crosses generational lines. The audience covered the decades, from few teens to a lot of retirees, including all ages in the middle. They responded to the performance with a shouting standing ovation, complete with waving light sticks, that brought the headliner back out for two encores.

He also was joined for one number by a group of young singers from Whitefish Bay High School.

Josh Groban is the boy next door with a three-language repertoire. Tickets for his concert Sunday at the Milwaukee Theatre sold out 17 minutes after going on sale.