It's Not Entirely Surprising That Josh Groban Has Found an Audience
St. Paul Pioneer Press
February 24, 2005
By Ross Raihala, Pop Music Critic
It's not entirely surprising that Josh Groban has found an audience.

He oozes with nice-guy charm, smiles enough for three men (and one boy) and performs easily digestible, pop-oriented opera music.

It's the sheer size of his audience that's hard to believe. One year ago, Groban filled the Orpheum Theatre. Wednesday night, he packed a sold-out crowd of about 13,500 all the way up to the rafters of the Target Center.

That's an impressive leap for any performer, let alone one who doesn't rip off his shirt, breakdance or offend parental types.

In fact, Groban boasts a cross-generational if largely female appeal, with screaming teenage girls sidling up next to suburban soccer moms and bright-eyed grandmas. Regardless of age, all swooned and mooned to Groban's every last over-emoted note.

Yes, Groban's got a strong voice, and it was in fine form Wednesday night. But there's not much subtlety to what the guy does. Backed by a pianist, rock band and string section, nearly every one of Groban's songs sounded like the soundtrack to a bodice-ripping Harlequin novel.

If Josh Groban's music was a couch, it'd be overstuffed, dripping with tassels and scented like vanilla musk. Comfy, sure, but kind of embarrassing in the light of day.

But Groban delivers even the most florid numbers with a certain likability. It helps that he has the goofy, approachable look and manner of a women's studies graduate student or the assistant manager of a Starbucks.

Jazz trumpeter Chris Botti opened the evening. Between numbers, he compared Groban's rabid fans to Deadheads not quite the stretch that might seem and marveled that his rise to fame had nothing to do with either MTV or "American Idol."

Still, there's plenty of hero worship going on here. Groban turns 24 on Sunday, the same night he'll perform on the Oscars with R&B hottie Beyonce.

At one point, a female fan approached the stage to give Groban a rose and a Peanuts birthday card. Groban graciously accepted, cracked a smile and melted about 13,500 hearts in the process.

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