Groban Wows Packed Opry House
The Tennessean
April 22, 2004
By Fiona Soltes
23-year-old 'popera' star in town on 'Closer' tour

It's a complicated balance between aw shucks and awe-inspiring, but Josh Groban somehow manages to pull off both.

The 23-year-old ''popera'' star wowed a packed house at the Grand Ole Opry House last night as part of the Closer tour, which sold out worldwide in a matter of moments. Since his debut album in November 2001, the artist has appeared on PBS, Ally McBeal and at the Super Bowl.

Last night Groban began the show the same way he opened his latest triple-platinum-selling album: with the haunting Oceano. He ended it in grand style with the chart-topping You Raise Me Up (including a little help from Murfreesboro's Siegel High School choir). And in between, he flawlessly delivered every note.

Groban has said that one of his criteria in choosing songs for the album was whether they'd stand up on tour. Clearly, they do; the biggest challenge for the young performer (who admitted he ''first started singing seven or eight years ago'') is to keep himself from being upstaged by his own voice.

But what a smooth, rich baritone voice it is. It overpowered any attempts at staging, such as video screens in the background and three staircases he walked up, down and around. One challenge for the audience's attention, however, was concertmaster and violin soloist Lucia Micarelli. In pieces such as Mi Mancherai, her instrument and her expressive, passionate, bare-footed way of playing it was every match for Groban's vocals. He allowed her a spotlight later, which included none other than Bohemian Rhapsody.

Throughout the concert, members of the crowd, definitely the PBS set, swooned, teared up and just emoted in general over the man who was young enough to be their son.

''You rock my face off,'' one of the more youthful attendees called out between songs.

''Thanks,'' Groban replied, almost sheepishly.

''I rocked someone's face off at the Grand Ole Opry. Strike that off my list.''