Groban Charms Audience With Powerful Voice, Playfulness
St. Petersburg Times
April 18, 2004
By Gina Vivinetto
You may walk into a Josh Groban concert uncharmed, but chances are you won't exit that way. It's hard not to find something appealing about the 23-year-old classical pop singing phenomenon who's surprised everyone by becoming a chart-topping crossover success since a 2001 appearance on the sitcom Ally McBeal.

Sure, some critics put their snooty noses in the air, calling Groban's brand of watered-down opera and New Age balladry a far cry from bona fide classical music. But, Groban's fans - and his legions include Oprah, millions of Super Bowl pregame viewers, and, on Saturday, a sold-out crowd of nearly 2,500 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center - adore the curly-maned singer.

Dressed in an elegantly cut black suit and shirt, Groban began the first of two sets with the ominous Oceano, which showcased Groban's otherworldly baritone.

How does such a thin young man pack such a rich, commanding voice? Even stranger, how is Groban such a goofball between songs? Did you ever expect him to have such puckish stage patter? Groban was every bit the twenty-something prankster, cracking jokes about his guitarist's leather pants and accidentally spitting on the front row.

"This is my first concert ever in Florida," Groban told the crowd before launching into the flamenco guitar-drenched My Confession. The singer was backed only by piano and violin for Mi Mancherai (Il Postino), a song performed on his debut album with famed violinist Joshua Bell. On Saturday, Groban was accompanied by a female violinist, one of several string players in his backing band, which also included musicians on cello, harp and the standard rock accoutrements.

Groban delivered To Where You Are - the Ally McBeal tune - and fans responded with enthusiastic cheers. He then praised the Spanish language for its romance and loveliness while introducing the salsa-inflected Alejate, another of the many tunes Groban sings in foreign tongue.

Highlights from Groban's second set included the singer sitting at the piano for Remember When It Rained, one of several tunes he co-wrote on Closer, his second album, and Groban's rendition of Vincent, songwriter Don McLean's pop tribute to artist Vincent van Gogh. Backed only by violin and acoustic guitar, Groban told the crowd he has loved the song since he was a child and delivered the lyrics, about an artist misunderstood in his lifetime, with restraint and elegance.

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