Groban's Light Opera Charms Female Fans
Tacoma News Tribune
August 30, 2004
By Ernest A. Jasmin
Josh Groban is one of the strangest spectacles in popular music today - basically a young opera singer who somehow managed to land on VH1 and introduce us to the concept of classical pop, en route to selling more than 10 million records.

Every time I hear "My Confession" I imagine Celine Dion reincarnated as a dashingly handsome 23-year-old male.

I'm more used to reviewing the likes of Black Sabbath, the Roots and Prince.

But when the rising superstar headlined Auburn's White River Amphitheatre on Saturday, the crowd ate it up. Middle-aged women screamed for Groban at the top of their lungs with the shrill exuberance usually reserved for Mick Jagger; people waved glow sticks during numbers sung in Italian; and the night's star ran back and forth giving high-fives to the people gathered in front of the stage.

Bet none of that is condoned at the opera house.

Groban himself put on an impressive vocal display, backed by a five-piece band and a string section that included lovely violinist Lucia Micarelli, whose dramatically emotive playing occasionally stole the spotlight.

Groban opened with "Oceano," and his voice soared through one towering crescendo after another as he delivered 95 minutes of music, mostly from his self-titled debut and last year's follow up, "Closer."

Set highlights included "Never Let Go," "You Raise Me Up," "Remember" (a song recorded for the "Troy" soundtrack) and "Caruso," the latter's Italian lyrics translated on a giant screen.

Groban's disarming, gee whiz demeanor did much to diffuse the pomposity of the music, roughly half of which was sung in Spanish and Italian. His glowing smile and every utterance spawned cheers and fawning declarations of love from women in the crowd.

At one point Groban interrupted his set to spend several minutes greeting fans, and their babies, who had gathered at his feet at the front of the stage. "Wow, this has turned into a little meet and greet," he joked.

As impressive as Groban's vocal display was, some songs ran together with their similar feel of epic grandeur. And the advantages of singing a good part of the set in Spanish and Italian gradually became apparent. The English numbers veered dangerously close to schmaltzy.

But Groban injected a bit of variety into the set by covering Simon & Garfunkel's "America," Don McLean's "Vincent" and Linkin Park's "My December."

The covers occasionally seemed gimmicky and overwrought. While he managed to tone it down for "America," his voice was a total mismatch for the Linkin Park number - making it seem like some sort of bizarre Vegas opera - and I yearned to hear Chester Bennington's gravelly vocals instead.