Young Heartthrob Lives Up to Fans' Expectations
Ottawa Citizen
February 24, 2004
Lynn Saxberg
Josh Groban did a few cheesy stunts during his show, but no one seemed to mind -- or notice.

While mop-top superstar Josh Groban was channelling the operatic power of his voice into a concert of pseudo-classical pop songs in the National Arts Centre's Southam Hall on Sunday, a couple of artsy types from Ottawa were on another stage in the same building having their way with some authentic opera arias.

"If you're here for the Josh Groban concert, you're in the wrong place," joked singer Tyley Ross near the start of the East Village Opera Company's first public performance. "Josh is down the hall."

Of course, the 2,000 fans who snapped up tickets to Groban's long-sold-out concert knew exactly where they were headed. Ever since they spotted him on Ally McBeal a couple of years ago, they've been waiting for the opportunity to swoon over that rich, luxurious voice. His performance was a high-heels-and-pearls special occasion that drew three generations of elegantly dressed fans.

Groban was everything they expected. In a pin-striped suit, the heartthrob crooner gave a polished performance, coming across like a male version of Celine Dion with his technically perfect voice, eyes-closed emoting and unruffled songs in various languages. He even sang a Dion song (Just Walk Away) that had been translated into Spanish (Alejate) for extra romantic flair.

With a string section on one side of the stage, a Latin-flavoured rock band on the other and a staircase up the middle, Groban performed songs from his self-titled debut and last fall's mega-selling follow-up, Closer, with all the passion of a high school debating champ. Cheesy but effective gimmicks included his mid-air descent onto the darkened stage and the climax of the first set, Let Me Fall, when he let himself tumble from that same mid-air point.

Of his backing musicians, the standout talent on the classical side was barefoot violinist Lucia Micarelli, while guitarist Tariqh Akoni, from the band side, played an impressive, if restrained, flamenco guitar. Nepean High School's choir also joined Groban during the second set.

Not yet 23 (his birthday is Friday, he informed us), Groban's nice smile and enormous voice have earned him a lucrative niche in the classical crossover market. But he seems wooden onstage, as if there's an untamed creature inside that longs to rock out. And yes, he still needs a haircut.