July 19, 2004
By Christian C. Rix
More than a decade ago, critic Michael Medved outraged the right and left coasts when he noted that Hollywood churns out a stream of R-rated films despite evidence that G- and PG-rated films generate more cash.
Josh Groban has a practical pop-music application of the "Medved Postulate." This is an age of grunge, gutter and gangsta, but Groban is fulfilling the mandate of Marshall Field: "Give the lady what she wants." His fans came to Sunday night's concert at Savvis Center willing, eager and even determined to be pleased, and Groban did not disappoint them.
Groban has a pleasing voice of the tenortone/barinor variety that is suited to the pop idiom. He uses it with straightforward simplicity and usually avoids the breathy nasality that passes for emotive expression in pop vocals. That's a fancy way to say: He sings.
An engaging curtain-raiser in saxophonist-vocalist Mindy Abair was followed by the star himself in a glittering succession of numbers. Lights and visuals framed the performance, and the arena amplification was decent as such things go. Attractive violinist Lucia Micarelli was often dramatically paired with Groban during the performance.
Repertory was appropriately centered on popular numbers well known to his fans. "You Raise Me Up" is one of those numbers, and that's what Groban was there to do for his public.
The only puzzle is trying to decipher the buzz about Groban being "operatic." The show can't even be said to possess operatic themes and has only a light dusting of operatic memes. To be sure, Groban supplements a typical rock backup force with about a dozen strings. He sings a song titled "Caruso," and some numbers are in Italian.
But it takes more than that to make opera. If he had belted out "Nessun Dorma," the claim might be justified. Whoops. Forget that. I might get what I asked for.