Josh Groban: A Swoon a Minute
Star Tribune
February 24, 2005
By Jon Bream
Picture 14,000 desperate housewives thinking the opera boy next door is singing just for them.

OK, not everyone at Josh Groban's soldout concert Wednesday at Target Center was a middle-aged woman. There also were hundreds of teenage girls and a few fellows dragged to the show by their better halves.

Shelly Schrader, 39, and Lynda Lein, 42, left their husbands at home in Prior Lake. "We didn't invite them," Lein said. "They'd rather see ZZ Top or George Thorogood."

Schrader has seen recent concerts by crooners Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Buble, but she loves Groban's "beautiful voice combined with his compassionate heart. It makes me drool."

The New York Times called Groban, who turns 24 on Sunday, "the new boy wonder of the voice." At Target Center, the highbrow heartthrob came across like the Phantom of the Popera, singing in Italian, Spanish and French and a few numbers in English. His music is part Broadway, part European pop, part world music and part classical.

No matter what you call Groban's music, he had women -- of all ages -- swooning, screaming "I love you" between songs and handing him birthday cards and flowers.

"I'm blown away by his voice," oozed Brenda Evans, 40, of Champlin. "I didn't expect him to be this good live. He's better than the recording."

"I'm going to go buy his recordings," said her friend, Mary Berg, 42, of Blaine, who was dragged to the concert.

Carol Ustibak, 55, and Anna Wicks, 31, mother and daughter from White Bear Lake, go to a couple concerts together each year. Mom liked how this one crossed generations -- from the 3-year-old sitting near them to an 80-year-old grandma nearby. "This is more relaxing," she said, compared to the Neil Diamond and Simon & Garfunkel shows. "Josh is wonderful. His voice. He's so down to earth. He really enjoys what he does."

Even teenagers were impressed. "It's a lot better than I expected," said Annika Trodersson, 17, of Lino Lakes, who participates in choir and band at school. "There's more emotions going around. It's nice to see teenagers here. [Stardom] should be more about the music than their looks."

Not that anyone was complaining about Groban's chocolate curls and matching eyes.

"He's kinda cute," observed Thea Terp, 16, of Eden Prairie, who brought her best friend to the concert as a birthday present. "And he's actually good."

Even guys agreed. "It's nice to have music that's not completely influenced by MTV and the majority," said Jon Grzeskowiak, 22, a University of Minnesota student.

Groban's popularity -- each of his two studio albums, including last year's chart-topping "Closer," has sold more than 4 million copies -- is "a testament to the enduring appeal of a good strong voice singing melodic pop material," says critic George Varga of the San Diego Union Tribune. "The fact that he has a legit classical background doesn't hurt. That he's young and good-looking doesn't hurt. He's created a niche of his own."

With one foot in pop and the other in classical, Groban carried on like a grown-up rock star at Target Center. He wore a shirt untucked, suit pants and a sport coat. He played some piano and drums for a bit, and he ran around the stage, encouraging segments of the crowd to scream wildly like he was Justin Timberlake. Then he would stand front and center unleashing that special baritone, his curls blowing (from an electric fan) like Yanni or Beyonce. He sang tunes by Paul Simon, Don McLean and even rap-rockers Linkin Park, plus numbers in languages he can't even speak.

The crowd responded waving glo-sticks (though fewer than you'd see at a Hilary Duff show) and snapping photos (though fewer flashes than you'd see at a Diamond show). The "I love you's" went on so long that Groban finally looked at his imaginary watch and announced, "I'm like my second-grade teacher. I'll wait."

It was an evening of serious music that drew a seriously silly response.