Crossover Phenomenon Groban Sings In One Voice
Las Vegas Sun
August 23, 2004
By Jerry Fink
It's hard to argue with success. Twenty-three-year-old "popera" wunderkind Josh Groban seems to have captured the world with his tremendous baritone voice, reminiscent of another "popera" star -- Andrea Bocelli ("The Prayer").

The California native has released only three albums in his fledgling career -- "Josh Groban," "Josh Groban in Concert" and "Closer."

"Josh Groban" has reached the quadruple platinum level; "Closer" is triple platinum.

The success of his recordings (plus his singing of "To Where You Are" in 2001 on the hit TV series "Ally McBeal") have made the young man a superstar.

Las Vegans and Vegas tourists are no less enamored of Groban than the rest of the universe. The 12,000-seat Events Center at Mandalay Bay was filled to the rafters with fans Saturday for the one-night-only engagement.

His supporters include all ages, from the very young to the very old.

Throughout most of the concert they sat motionless, staring at and listening intently to a performer who relies on his voice rather than fireworks to gain attention.

I wasn't sure whether the fans were awestruck or dumbstruck.

Halfway through the concert I began to wonder if I had heard some of his songs (almost all of them romantic ballads) earlier in the evening. Most of them were operatic, sung in Italian, and so the words meant nothing to me, only the intonation, the presentation.

Based solely on presentation, I couldn't tell the difference between "Un Amore Per Sempre," (performed with remarkable violinist Lucia Micarelli, playing barefoot) from "Gira Con Me Questa Notte."

And many of the songs seemed to carry the same weight, the same phrasing. For all I knew he might have sang the same song a dozen times and I wouldn't have known the difference.

While Groban may have one of the great baritone voices in the world, his delivery sometimes lacks distinction and consequently becomes somewhat boring -- but that didn't seem to be an issue with his army of fans at Mandalay Bay.

The concert lasted two hours and 40 minutes, beginning with a 30-minute mini-concert by classical pianist William Joseph, another brilliant young artist who is on a fast-track to success, thanks to impresario David Foster (who also discovered Groban).

Following a 30-minute break, Groban arrived wearing a black suit and red shirt. He was back-lit by shards of light as he stood at the top of a stairway leading to a narrow platform behind the band.

He sang many songs from his albums, among them "Alejate" (a Spanish version of Celine Dion's "Just Walk Away"); "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)" (by Don McLean) and "Caruso" (an Italian ballad about tenor Enrico Caruso).

From time to time he attempted to interact with the audience, but seemed ill-at-ease, a condition that will correct itself with the gaining of experience as his career continues to grow and flourish.

One of his final numbers was the hit "You Raise Me Up" (from "Closer"), in which he was accompanied by Henderson's Basic High School choir. The song was featured in the TV movie "Saving Jessica Lynch."

And he demonstrated his skills on the drums, synthesizer and piano. Eventually, hopefully he will demonstrate his skill in choosing a wider variety of music so his songs don't sound so much alike.

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