Josh Groban: The mature voice belies a man too young to rent a car yet
September 5, 2004
By Nick Lewis
Josh Groban at the Pengrowth Saddledome Saturday night. The show was sold out.
"Calgary!" Josh Groban shouts with rock star flair. "Beautiful, patient Calgary!"
Whenever the music made you think you were listening to a mature, refined performer, Groban's youthful exuberance when addressing the sold-out audience reminded you this guy can't yet rent a car.
Proving there's an audience for highbrow pop, the 23-year-old former Los Angeles theatre student lured 10,000 fans into our biggest venue on Labour Day weekend -- quite a feat for an artist few in this crowd had heard of 18 months ago.
Opening with Oceano from his second disc, Closer, Groban dressed in a crisp black suit with a blue shirt and black-and-white sneakers.
If there were an MTV3 music video channel that played nothing but crossover artists like Charlotte Church, Sarah Brightman and Helmut Lotti, Groban would be its poster boy.
He looks like Survivor winner Ethan Zohn and sings like Andrea Bocelli, and live, it's evident he has a bit of a self-deprecating wit.
"I just had a brain fart like I've never had in my life," he said after mumbling something incomprehensible.
Pitch-perfect, he sounded as crisp as he does on his two CDs, the wafts of smoke and sharp lighting framing him making him seem more poignant, more effective in person. A sharp rendition of To Where You Are, which he first performed on the now-cancelled Ally McBeal, went over well with the audience, as did a cover of Linkin Park's My December, Don Maclean's Vincent and Remember When It Rained.
But this is my only gripe: Groban sounds more impassioned when you can't understand what he's saying; in English, the words weigh down the sentiment he manages to conjure.
While Groban sounded excellent on songs like Caruso, his backing orchestra matched him note for note. His violinist, Lucia Micarelli of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, was striking. In a red dress, illuminated in a blade of light, she often helped set the mood for his honeyed pipes, during a solo teasing the audience with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
You Raise Me Up was given instant credibility as the soundtrack America wept to during tragedy: reflections on 9/11, the space shuttle Columbia explosion, the Jessica Lynch movie-of-the-week. This semi-religious pop song, which has greatly accounted for Groban's meteoric rise, was what most had come for Saturday night. Live, he performed this with the local Central Memorial Chamber Choir, and it worked well.