All That Josh
Syracuse New Times
May 5, 2004
By Lorraine Smorol
Excitment surged among the pilgrims heading to Christian crooner Josh Groban's April 28 concert at the Landmark Theatre. Coming from near and far, a particular 50-person segment heeded a powwow call on by meeting at P.J. Dorsey's on Walton Street. Most of these "Friends of Josh Groban" have followed the 23-year-old's career from the time he debuted on the Fox-TV series Ally McBeal at 17, singing "To Where You Are," commemorating Sept. 11.

That's when Friend member Christine Henderson of Lyncourt was hooked: "I was the first local fan to log on to his Web site," she said, flaunting the pins on her dress with the singer's mug. "He's my guy, not like other guys his age. We all love him."

Five-year-old Hunter Siegel also got giddy over Groban's Ally gig. "Hunter was only 3 at the time," remembered his grandmother, Deana Siegel. "When he heard his voice, Hunter said, 'Who is that? I like him!' and he's been a fan ever since."

The trans-generational audience took their seats politely for the sold-out performance, especially happy that the performer was even there. Two days before, Groban nixed a date in Richmond, Va., due to exhaustion and a sore throat. Fittingly, he made a dramatic stage entrance, descending from an upper catwalk via a center flight of stairs as he sang "Oceano" in his rich, operatic baritone. He looked almost priest-like in his black getup, but was all rock'n'roll seduction with the audience, whose female base was balanced with a formidable chunk of men. Culling from his two discs on Warner Bros., Josh Groban and Closer, it's no wonder Groban favors lyrics in Italian and Spanish, as he had a field day with the romance languages' copious vowels.

His 14-piece backing orchestra, featuring a violin section, harp, percussion, drums, keyboard and bass guitar, tag-teamed with master guitarist Tariqh Akoni, but all took a courteous back-seat to the singer. In "Caruso" Akoni took on a mandolin for authentic Italian flavor. Lucia Micarelli did double duty as solo violinist and concertmaster, pairing fiery, fox-like energy with discipline. Meanwhile, Groban swam in song for more than two hours, save for a 20-minute intermission.

He closed with fan favorite and ubiquitous radio single "You Raise Me Up," accompanied by the Corcoran High School Chorus. Despite the chorus' stint lasting barely over a minute, the young singers beamed.

During intermission at the merchandise tables, one fan forked over an Andrew Jackson in exchange for a chintzy program with Groban photos and not much else. Ten bucks could net you a Glo pen in neon colors, Josh fans' conservative answer to rock concerts' Bic lighter. Meanwhile, the Rev. Michael C. Carmola, director of Christ the King Retreat House on 500 Brookford Road, offered mid-concert insight: "If I had all that dry ice puffing smoke, fancy photos flashed on a screen plus a 14-piece orchestra behind my altar when I was celebrating Mass, I could sound almost as good." Carmola added on a serious note, "With all the violence in the world today, people are looking for romance."

Afterward, audience members leaving from the Jefferson Street exit could not help but see the bounty of floral bouquets against the wall. Stretched across them was a banner reading, "Josh Groban for President."