Groban Makes Classical in Thing
Norwich Bulletin
February 10, 2005
By David Pencek
A handful of musicians and singers have tried to make "unhip" or "uncool" music such as classical and opera hip, cool and popular.

The ladies from the British group Bond and violinist Vanessa-Mae have enjoyed some success in their endeavors. And there have been others, including a new piano group called the 5 Browns.

No one, however, comes close to matching Josh Groban's ability and success in making classical, operatic singing popular to the masses and that was evident Tuesday.

His concert in the Mohegan Sun Arena felt like a rock show with the screaming fans and thunderous applause. That was until Groban beautifully performed emotional songs sung in Greek, Spanish and English. That's when the two worlds came together and made for an inspiring night.

Groban's hundred-minute show included many songs from his second album, "Closer," as well as effective covers of Don McLean's "Vincent" and Simon and Garfunkel's "America."

The concert was well paced with Groban, who will turn 24 Feb. 27, bringing needed levity to the night. Between songs, Groban showed off his boyish charm and humor. He talked to audience members sitting in the front row and signed a few autographs before saying he had another song to do. He took note of fans waving light sticks, calling them "light music's version of the lighter."

A small string orchestra and a five-piece band performed just as powerful as Groban's voice, especially when it came to violinist Lucia Micarelli. Her violin playing and Groban's singing became a duet in "Mi Mancherai."

Micarelli also played an amazing solo halfway through the concert. The solo began as a soft piece, then developed mightily into the opening section of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Groban spent the first half of the concert singing mostly foreign language songs, including his opening number "Oceano." He devoted the last half of the night to some of his more well-known tunes including "Remember When It Rained," "Remember Me," which he recorded for the film "Troy," and his popular hit "You Raise Me Up," which he sang at the 2004 Super Bowl.

Jazz trumpeter Chris Botti opened the evening with a 40-minute set. He returned during Groban's performance and added his trumpet playing to Groban's song "Broken Vow."

Botti played many tunes from his latest CD, "When I Fall In Love," including opening with the title track. Botti and his four-piece supporting band proved instrumental jazz can work in an arena setting.

Botti aptly summed up the night when he commented that in a time when the Internet, MTV and "American Idol" are so popular, thousands of people will still come out to hear jazz and classical music.

Perhaps appropriately, Groban and Botti performed Tuesday, the same night "American Idol" aired on Fox. And indeed, thousands of people did come out to hear classical music and jazz.

Pretty cool, huh?