Josh Groban, Young Man with a Song
February 17, 2005
By Jeffrey LaGrange
Josh Groban. February 8, Mohegan Sun arena, over 7,500 fans attending his sold-out concert. The lights go down and the place explodes in shouts and cheers. Into the center stage spotlight walks a curly haired 23-year-old baritone who starts the show with back to back songs sung in Italian. The first, "Oceano" a sad song (his favorite kind) rapidly followed by "Per Te" his second, but certainly not last, sad song sung in perfect Italian. One of his most recognizably songs probably not understood as to the meaning and lyrics by his fans, but within five seconds of its start, there is massive cheering for the song itself.
I'm wondering what 23-year-old pop/classical singer/composer is so polished, so audience savvy and so phenomenally musically gifted. The answer is no one. No one I can think of at least. To my amazement the Mohegan Sun arena, a wonderful venue to see a concert such as this, is very concert friendly. Not too big, not too small and with a superb sound and lighting system. The arena has been home to many superstars and now they can add Josh Groban, the phenomenally gifted young baritone superstar to their roster.
Groban catapulted himself onto the music scene with two guest shots on the TV show Ally McBeal several years ago. The second episode, a Christmas one, was written especially for him by show creator and writer David E. Kelly to spotlight his first breakthrough hit, "To Where You Are." Sung in concert, it's impossible not to be moved by this song which Josh dedicated to those that lost a loved one on 9/11, or to anyone who has lost someone special in their life. Josh followed these shows up with appearances on Good Morning America, Oprah and by finally releasing his first self-titled CD, which quickly went gold and made itself a comfortable home on the Billboard Top 100 list.
Following this CD, produced by his mentor David Foster, Josh released his second album, an aptly title CD called Closer. On this sophomore work, Josh says, "What most people know about me, they know through my music. This time, I've tried to open that door as wide as possible. These songs are a giant step closer to who I really am and what my music is all about. Hence the title."
The concert featured many selections from both CDs. Included in his 18 song set was "You Raise me Up" which he sang at the Mohegan Sun arena with the choir brought in by Derrick Williams from his church from New London. Mr. Williams was the winner of this year's Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun talent competition and certainly the envy of many choir members that evening.
Although onstage briefly to back Josh up at the end of the song, it was unbelievably moving to hear this song live with a backup choir. Joining the wonderful string section already onstage, this was a song, a performance near perfection.
Blessed with an almost flawless voice that I would liken perhaps to the sound of an angel and the good looks and charm of your boy next door, Josh held the audience mesmerized for close to two hours. Sprinkling songs like Paul Simon's "America" and Don McLean's "Vincent" with pop/classical European gems sung in Italian and one in Spanish, Groban knew exactly how to wow his fan. And wow them he did. Josh's only real turn off stage was mid way through the show where he turned the spotlight over to Lucia Micarelli and her magical way with the violin. She effortlessly turned Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" into a classical reborn hit. With a stellar keyboard, bass and drum to assist her, they all made Josh's short time offstage worth the wait.
After that Groban returned to sing another eight or nine songs to his audience now living and hanging on for his every note. His high energy delivered one of the best, close-to-perfect concerts I have ever attended. The boyish good looks, the unassuming charm and his voice are a triple threat to anyone in the music industry today. Josh is here for the long run. With two monster hit CDs and two CD/DVD combinations concerts out there, it's hard to believe any one performer has come this far at such an early age.
Josh Groban is a performer to be heard, hopefully seen and enjoyed. And he's only just warming up.