Josh Groban Delivers With a Powerful Voice
August 10, 2004
By Michael Parrish
As trends come and go in popular music, there always seems to be a place for singers performing multilingual pop tunes with operatic delivery and flourishes. One of the latest, and certainly one of the most successful, is Josh Groban, who, at age 23, has sold more than 10 million records and nearly filled the Tweeter Center for his concert there Sunday night.
Blessed with a remarkably powerful voice that covers both the tenor and baritone ranges, Groban has done an admirable job of creating musical and visual settings that enhance his vocal prowess. At the Tweeter, Groban was supported by a 15-piece mini-orchestra and his regular touring sextet. This diversity of players allowed him to juxtapose his vocals against everything from swirling strings to driving rock rhythms. The stage was visually striking as well, with a massive set of Lucite risers.
Faced with the challenge of projecting visually to a large outdoor audience, Groban relied heavily on two of his band members as visual, as well as musical, foils. Charismatic violinist Lucia Micarelli was concert master and spent considerable time in the spotlight, delivering an extended solo midway through the show that gave Groban a chance to change his clothes. Guitarist Tariqh Akoni contributed flawless flamenco-inflected playing on several tunes, including "Alegate," which Groban sang in Spanish.
During his 90-minute performance, Groban also demonstrated other facets of his musical persona, performing his own "Remember When It Rained" on a grand piano and unleashing his inner rocker by engaging in a fiery drum duel with percussionist Craig McIntire. Groban's tousled good looks and open, unassuming demeanor clearly endear him to his enthusiastic fans, largely female, the most rabid of whom dub themselves "Grobanites." At one point, Groban stopped to accept a few audience gifts and donned a Cubs hat given him by a fan.
Near the show's end, Groban sang "Remember Me," which he performed on the soundtrack to "Troy" in front of wide-screen footage of the film. He closed the show with his biggest song to date, the ubiquitous feel-good anthem "You Raise Me Up," which he also performed at the Super Bowl and Oprah's 50th birthday celebration.
Groban has chosen material well-suited to his remarkable voice--and his fans. He projects both power and intimacy, even in a large and impersonal setting like the Tweeter.
Opening for Groban was saxophonist Mindy Abair and her quartet, who delivered a well-played, energetic half-hour set of Abair's original tunes that blended light jazz, pop and funk.