Josh Groban is Golden for Adoring Fans
Grand Rapids Press
February 21, 2007
By Sue Merrell
"I'm just a man," Josh Groban sang in one of his songs at Van Andel Arena Tuesday night, but probably his devoted fans would disagree.

He's a hero of the silken voice, a playful showman, a masterful musician, songwriter and angel to his audience.

Or as one of his fans shouted down from the second level: "You're just too cute."

Certainly his 20-song set of sweeping vocals and high-tech staging kept the nearly sold-out house of 10,000 applauding and cheering.

"It's Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, so let's celebrate," Groban told the crowd early in the show. Throughout the night he chattered with the crowd, sometimes impersonating children's television stars such as Barney and Mr. Rogers.

The lush, fully orchestrated Spanish and Italian love songs that made Groban famous six years ago comprised about a fourth of Tuesday's set list, overshadowed with a repertoire ranging from the funky, horn heavy "Machine" to the political anthem "Weeping" to the contagious pop of "So She Dances."

Many of the standout numbers -- "Remember When it Rained," "Now or Never," "Machine" and "February Song" -- were co-written by Groban.

Some fancy staging
"February Song," a single from his latest album, was offered about midway through the evening as a showpiece of high tech staging. In the beginning, a video seascape of waves rippling to shore provided an appropriate backdrop, but as the music built, the video changed into a view of outerspace, then a meteor shower and a climactic, overwhelming white light that was reminiscent of a scene from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" before the video and lighting effects calmed down to a simple eclipse.

It was impressive, but detracted rather than enhanced what is actually a tender, touching song. I liked "February Song" better when Groban performed it on "The Today Show" recently with little effects beyond his fingers on the keyboard and sincerity in his expression.

Elaborate videos provide backdrop for almost every song. But sometimes the best effects were more personal.

Groban had the crowd eating out of his hand when he sat on the edge of the stage, signed a few autographs and then sang a very intimate number, "Not While I'm Around," from the Stephen Sondheim musical "Sweeney Todd."

It was equally effective when Angelique Kidjo, the opening act, joined Groban on stage for the duet "Pearls."

Fans were not beyond stretching the truth to get Groban's attention. Denise Warne of Grand Haven celebrated her 50th birthday Tuesday night with seats right in front of the microphone. Her sister, Sherri Carlson-Harding of Twin Lake, had a banner made that said it was the 100th birthday of Miss Niecy, a nickname for Warne. Groban noticed the sign, realized no one in that row was anywhere near 100, so he sang happy birthday to the "awful liar" in the second row.

Groban lingered on the stage several songs after he had told the audience goodnight, doing a spirited drum solo and closing with the anthem "You Raise Me Up" which included a 16-member Detroit choir that joined him for the final chorus.

Even after the lights came up and the musicians had left, Groban was on the stage accepting Mardi Gras beads from a fan.

He's not just a man any more than Mardi Gras is just another Tuesday.