Grobanites Treated to Uplifting Night
Buffalo News
July 24, 2004
By C. Dabkowski
Josh Groban's performance Thursday night at Darien Lake brought hope and inspiration to adoring female fans.

Concert review: Josh Groban
Thursday night in Six Flags Darien Lake Performing Arts Center

Welcome to Grobania.

It's a land of hot pink flower slacks and too-tight fanny packs, where women tailgate around their Buick Centuries with bottles of Pinot Grigio and Diet Pepsi.

In Grobania, the only emotions allowed are hope and inspiration, the only thing to eat is sugar, and the only thing on the radio is 23-year-old vocal virtuoso Josh Groban.

Enjoy your stay. You kind of don't have any other choice.

That was the scene on Thursday night in the Six Flags Darien Lake parking lot, where thousands of Grobanites sat in demure semi-circles and sipped cocktails in preparation for an hour and a half onslaught of uplifting melodies.

As the clock ticked closer to 8 p.m. and the cocktails kept flowing, this crowd was getting ready to rock and/or pass out.

Fortunately, charming young Groban kept them awake - possibly even entertained - for the better part of the evening.

After a thankfully brief opening set from skunk-haired saxophoness Mindy Abair that could have served as the perfect soundtrack for a nightmare about Kenny G, Groban kicked off what turned out to be a relentlessly inspirational set of music.

Groban's music, whether original or interpreted, whether in English or Italian or Spanish, is all about hope. Hope upon hope; hope unleashed. Which is why his confused, unwieldy following of self-dubbed Grobanites (Oprah Winfrey among them) cannot get enough of it.

His voice is truly impressive, on par with Andrea Bocelli, if not quite as dynamic. He has no great soaring range, breaking into falsetto only once during the show for "Remember" from the film "Troy." The beauty in his vocal style comes from its static force and exactitude, which hardly wavered across 16 masterfully executed - if excessively saccharine - songs.

Backed by a group of fine musicians, most notably lightening-fingered violinist Lucia Micarelli and a strong, sizeable string section, Groban's voice fell perfectly into their tightly arranged pocket of dynamic sound.

The strings took a back seat to guitarist Tariqh Akoni on a couple of weakly flamenco-inspired songs, "Mi Morena" and "Alejate," which provided a welcome shift from the rest of his operatic repertoire. On the Spanish songs, Groban sounded better than Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias combined - faint praise, sure, but still a step in the right direction.

And the inspiration kept flowing as Groban took a stab at the over-performed Italian classic "Caruso," but did it justice. Other highlights included the apparently tear-wrenching "Mi Mancherai," and Micarelli's solo performance that included a rousing interpretation of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Joined by two dozen singers from the Corfu High School Choir, Groban closed out the set with his big hit "You Raise Me Up," which is essentially a rip-off of "Danny Boy" and the epitome of Groban's ceaselessly inspirational appeal.

It raised me up for about five seconds, and then set me right back down. Immediately.

But, man, what a voice!