The Farr Side: Groban Is Music With Passion
Sturgis Journal
February 28, 2007
By David T. Farr
It wouldn't surprise me to open a dictionary to the word "passionate" and find a picture of singer Josh Groban.

He's one of the most passionate performers on the scene today.

Groban's "Awake Tour 2007" touched down at Van Andel Arena to the screams of "Grobanites." I hadn't heard the term before, but it didn't take me long to figure out they're diehard fans of all ages.

The mood of the show was set when the bass-building interlude began to "You Are Loved (Don't Give Up), the first single from his latest CD, "Awake." You could feel the moody instrumentation build in your chest as it escalated.

Groban appeared, dressed casually, center stage amid a full band and complete backing orchestra. It was the perfect setup for a perfect show.

I pictured Groban as a mature kind of guy, bursting with sophistication, but he's down to earth. He cracked jokes, toyed with the audience, impersonated children's TV stars Barney and Mr. Rogers, and was an all-round funny guy. It was refreshing.

Groban's voice is almost larger than life and anyone in GR on Fat Tuesday would probably agree. Not once did his voice waver during the nearly two hours he had the audience wrapped in the palm of his hand.

The majority of the show featured tracks from "Awake" like the playful "So She Dances" to the political feel of "Weeping" to the horn-filled rhythmic "Machine."

Most of "Awake" is heavily influenced by Groban's trip to Africa to meet Nelson Mandela. On the album, "Weeping" and "Lullaby" feature Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Groban performed "February Song," a song he co-wrote with John Ondrasik of Five For Fighting. He followed that with "Lullaby," which he said he wrote with his friend Dave Matthews.

Both, "February Song" and "Lullaby," were highlights of the night. The songs show Groban's growth as an artist as well as his diverseness for reaching out to other credible artists.

His first penned track, "Remember When It Rained" from "Closer" could not have sounded better. The orchestral accompaniment was heaven to my ears.

Groban caught the attention of music fans six years ago by belting out Spanish and Italian love songs with ease. He demonstrated last week he is worthy of calling Pavarotti one of his peers. He brought the house down with"L'Ultima Notte," "Un Giorno Per Noi," and even sitting stage-front and signing autographs, he performed "Not While I'm Around" from the Stephen Sondheim musical "Sweeney Todd."

Groban brought opening act Angelique Kidjo back for a stirring duet of "Pearls," before performing a spirited drum solo.

For his encore, Groban was joined by a 16-member choir on his mega-anthem "You Raise Me Up." It was obvious the impact "You Raise Me Up" has had on his fans, including me. Many folks sang along with the chorus.

To anyone who says today's crop of singers lacks substance and talent, I beg to differ. Groban, Norah Jones, John Mayer, John Legend, Alicia Keys, and Christina Aguilera all exude an enormous amount of promise as entertainers.