Groban's Music Holds Audience
August 6, 2004
By Jane Vranish
It wasn't a grand night for singing at the Post-Gazette Pavilion Wednesday, as rain showers sprayed not only the lawn area but a good portion of the audience seated under the roof. Some chose to leave, but most braved the elements and screamed their pleasure for Josh Groban in what amounted to a repeat of his Heinz Hall concert in March.
The congenial young singer referred to the weather several times, although he didn't sing what would have been the perfect antidote, "Remember When It Rained," from his second album, "Closer."
It's not the patter that sells a Groban concert. Nor does it matter that the show surrounds this almost shy performer with scenic projections and a lush string section led by Lucia Micarelli.
This time around, he was opening up to the possibilities, allowing himself to engage in more emotion.
Despite the beginnings of professional polish, the selling point of a Groban concert is classically oriented music with a heavy pop overlay, to the extent that even Micarelli elicited hoots and applause for her violin solos.
Groban is still getting a lot of mileage out of "Closer," sprinkled with a few tunes from his first recording, "Josh Groban." The Pavilion reverberated with his powerful baritone, the sound system sympathetic to his rich tonal quality so that the registers blended in a velvet texture with even the high notes unusually effortless.
The Italian songs, such as the evocative "Mi Mancherai" from the movie "Il Postino" and the beautiful "Per Te," would, even without the translations, provide the emotional centerpiece of Groban's performance. It was the language of love transmitted in song, heightened by his talent for phrasing and inflection.
But Groban's popularity was best defined by another pair of songs. The first, "You're Still You," came from his appearance on TV's "Ally McBeal," and gave him his first break. The other, "You Lift Me Up," arguably his most popular song, provides the finale.
In between lay the spiritual side of Groban, paying homage to Sept. 11, then devoting himself to one of the greatest inspirational male voices in "Caruso."
He stayed within himself, a private man in a vast arena, the rain providing the backdrop while the audience listened spellbound.
That may be his path, the ability to communicate an exceptionally large voice in a small and meaningful way. It's an integrity that his fans sense now, and something that he can develop over a long and bright future.