Josh Groban Rocks T.D. Waterhouse Centre
Orlando Sentinel
February 1, 2005
By Matthew J. Palm
Josh Groban gives an emotional performance Monday night at Orlando's T.D. Waterhouse Centre.

When Josh Groban performed in Central Florida last April, it was to a sold-out crowd at the 2,000-seat King Center in Melbourne.

Monday night, the 23-year-old poured out his heart in Orlando's T.D. Waterhouse Centre, where just a smattering of the 17,000-plus seats were empty.

From his opening rock-god pose, backlit among the smoke, Groban raised the act up a notch from the more intimate King Center show, and succeeded in staying true to his sound while keeping the audience engaged.

Look! More lights! More smoke! More video screens!

But the crowd responded more to the music than any rock-star effects.

Groban's songs are a mix of foreign-language numbers performed in a sort of opera-light style and English-language ballads perfectly at home on any adult-contemporary radio station.

Among the songs performed were: "Oceano," "Per Te" and "Caruso" from his latest album, Closer.

But his self-titled debut was not ignored. On "Canto alla Vita," he handled the part sung by Irish popsters the Corrs on the studio version himself - and threw in a frenetic turn on the drum set, as well. (There's that rock-star thing again. "Thank you ..... thank you very much.")

"Vincent (Starry Starry Night)" had the crowd waving glowsticks and lighters.

On the ballad "Broken Vow," Groban was joined by opening act Chris Botti, a trumpet player with the No. 1 jazz album on Billboard's chart. Botti's trumpet effectively complemented Groban's resonant voice.

During his 35-minute opening set, Botti played old standards such as "When I Fall in Love" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" with precision and flair.

Groban, whose performance approached the two-hour mark, also attacked challenging melodies with precise phrasing, taking his rich baritone soaring with the dramatic technique he is known for.

Some of the songs - "Alla Luce del Sole" and "Remember When It Rained," for example - sounded more forceful than in previous concerts. Falsetto in some cases gave way to booming.

"To Where You Are," dedicated to 9-11 victims on TV's Ally McBeal years ago, suffered from the amped-up presentation. Groban's voice sounded a bit ragged on high notes as he tried to blast them to the back of the arena, and some of the song's simple poignancy was lost.

But rock stars don't go for simple, they go for show.

During "Remember," from the Troy soundtrack, a huge screen displayed scenes from the action film, including a bone-crunching battle.

And for crowd favorite "You Raise Me Up," Groban's roughly 20 musicians were augmented by choir members from a local church.

There was a definite local spin to the whole show, with Groban relating how he spent Sunday at SeaWorld.

"Yeah, I saw Shamu yesterday," he exclaimed. "That guy can jump! Golly!"

Groban was a lot looser than during the Melbourne show, accepting gifts from the crowd including a plush Stitch toy from Disney and a pair of oversized Mickey Mouse gloves.

"They say 'I love you more than Mickey,'." he gasped in mock horror as he read the gloves' inscription. "That's blasphemy! You can like me a lot but never more than Mickey."

As the concert progressed, Groban's wardrobe got increasingly more rocker-friendly. From a dressy black ensemble including sport jacket, he downshifted to a trendily untucked shirt over jeans. By concert's end, he was in an oversized Orlando Magic jersey, sweaty, one arm raised in the air, surrounded by smoke, fist clenched in a salute to the crowd.

He's getting this rock-god thing down.