His Fans Swoon as Groban Croons a Bit of Everything
Cleveland Plain Dealer
February 17, 2004
By John Soeder
Plain Dealer Pop Music Critic
Last month brought us the debut CD from Amici Forever, a quintet of classically trained, contemporarily groomed singers hyped as "the world's first opera band."

Can a FUBU endorse ment deal for Luciano Pavarotti be far behind?

In the meantime, the burgeoning "classical- crossover" genre is ruled by Josh Groban. His chart-topping second album, "Closer," has sold 2 million copies. The single "You Raise Me Up," which Groban recently belted out at the Super Bowl, is a Top 5 smash on Billboard's adult-contemporary chart.

In the midst of his first tour, the 22-year-old sensation from Los Angeles headlined a sold-out concert Sunday night at Playhouse Square's State Theatre.

His all-ages appeal was undeniable, if not readily explainable. Blessed with a pure, powerful voice and boyish good looks topped off with an unruly mop of hair, Groban took an operatic approach to a head-scratching range of material.

Without missing a beat, the trend-bucking tenor went from crooning "Mi Mancherai" (from the film "Il Postino") to dusting off the Don McLean oldie "Vincent." Groban even dipped into the songbook of the rock-rap band Linkin Park.

The performance got off to a dramatic start to the tune of "Oceano," with our unlikely hero seemingly floating in midair behind a semitransparent screen as projected images of waves crashed around him. In keeping with the civilized mood of the evening, Groban didn't bust any surfer moves.

He sang numerous crowd-pleasers in foreign languages, including "Alejate" (which, if my hazy recollection of high-school Spanish serves me correctly, loosely translates to "Hey Ya!") and "Un Amore Per Sempre" (Italian for "Shake Your Groove Thing," if I'm not mistaken).

Other highlights didn't beg for subtitles, including Groban's breakthrough ballad "To Where You Are" (popularized on an episode of "Ally McBeal") and "Remember When It Rained." Groban played piano on the latter number.

His six-piece touring band featured barefoot standout Lucia Micarelli on violin. A string section of local musicians fluffed up the lush arrangements as needed.

Split into two 40-minute sets and capped with a two-song encore, the performance was not without a few glitches. During Groban's otherwise remarkable rendition of Linkin Park's "My December," icons from a computer desktop appeared on the screen at the rear of the stage. Do you suppose the lighting guy was trying to check his e-mail?

Groban's awkward banter needed some fine-tuning, too.

Nonetheless, he got a well-deserved standing ovation for "You Raise Me Up." A chorus of local high-school students added oomph to the soaring tune, a feel-good anthem in "Wind Beneath My Wings" mode, tailor-made for special occasions (weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies, etc.) when "Wind Beneath My Wings" just won't do.

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