Groban's Classical-pop Mix Draws Fans
Democrat and Chronicle
July 23, 2004
By Jeff Spevak, Staff Music Critic
Josh Groban concerts are a great place to meet women.

“Look, here's a guy!” Victoria Mack says to her husband, Jim, at a gathering of Grobanites beneath a series of small picnic pavilions Thursday at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.

Jim is unimpressed. “There's one, too,” he says, nodding toward a guy in a lawn chair. “There's one. There's one. There's one.” But that's about it among these 38 tailgating fans of Josh Groban. About 8,962 more will soon be at the show as well.

“Ahhhhh!” several coo when told this will be the critic's first Groban show. This crowd loves a virgin.

Groban is 23, has an extraordinary voice and irrelevant songs that half of his audience can't understand. Some are in Italian, some in English. Like Sarah Brightman, Groban is that odd classical-pop crossover who elicits passion from some, groans from others.

Grobanite Lisa McCabe of Pittsfield, Mass., doesn't even speak Italian. “He doesn't either, but he sings it,” she says. She's here for her ninth Groban experience. “Well, and the roller coasters.”

“Don't let her kid you,” says Trasi Piccoli of London, Ontario, Canada. “She came for the Grobie company.“

“He becomes a reason to go places,” McCabe says.

A guy in a van pulls up to the shelter. “He just drove by!” he shouts out the window. “He was in that golf cart!”

“He loves golf carts,” McCabe says.

She's an authority, knowledgeably commenting on Groban's show-opening “Oceano.” “Lisa Lisa did it, too,” she says of the '80s pop star. “It's been around, it's an Italian ballad. It's a metaphor between human love and drowning in the ocean. It's quite tacky, but it sounds better in Italian.”

It sounds like Celine Dion full-orchestra rock bombast. The stage blows smoke throughout the show. During “You Raise Me Up,” Groban fans hold aloft pen lights, instead of lighters, as Syracuse's Corcoran High School chorus fills the air.

Rita McCarthy of Rochester, who set up the Grobanite picnic, rates herself a mere “two or three” on the Groban Passionometer. “There's different spectrums to the obsession,” she says.

She got Lorraine's Lunch Basket to cater the event and prepared a bag of freebies for everyone: a refrigerator magnet with Groban's photo, note cards and a photo of Groban to hang on your doorknob that reads “Warning: Watch For Drool.”

A woman runs up, waving her camera. She just snapped a photo of Groban riding the “Mind Eraser,” and everyone gathers around. “He loves roller coasters,” McCabe says.

Good karma floats around Groban like a shipwreck. Irene Koncius, a 50-ish woman from Toronto, is relaxing in a folding chair. Just 31/2 weeks ago, she discovered that she was in remission from leukemia. “I had cancer, and all I listened to was Josh,” she says. She figures she had 70 transfusions, each to Groban's music. “The doctors said they didn't think I would ever be in remission. But I am.”

“He's a miracle. He really is. And he has caused miracles.”