Soaring With Groban
Toronto Star
March 6, 2007
By John Terauds
Boyish pop star lifts fans' spirits, literally reaches out to all-ages crowd at the ACC

If anyone could be said to have a room the size of the Air Canada Centre in the palm of his hand, it was young pop crooner Josh Groban, during his second visit to Toronto last night.

An all-ages crowd cheered his arrival following opening singer Angélique Kidjo, who had warmed up the arena with her world-inspired vibe.

The 25-year-old Los Angeles boy opened with his hit single "You Are Loved" from Awake. He used the full width of the stage to reach as many fans as possible with his boyish charm.

Centre stage, in an ovoid pod backed by a striped screen on which a steady stream of images and colours were projected, sat a made-in-Toronto orchestra of strings and brass, with Groban's touring veterans at the core on guitar and percussion.

The audience was part of the overall light show. From a perch high above the regular seats, the near-capacity crowd was turned into a giant kaleidoscope.

But the true star was Groban, all tumbling curls and manly stubble, dressed initially in a casual jacket, grey T-shirt and jeans.

Awake has been a smash on the charts, and Groban liberally mined its 13 tracks. With the help of a synth keyboard and his core band, he even managed a faithful rendering of "Lullaby" and "Weeping," which he recorded with Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

We already knew that Groban can sing and that he can sing while playing the piano. But, last night, he also sang "In Her Eyes" as he made an entrance into the stands two levels up, descending to the stage while shaking hands with audience members the whole way.

In a further show of how comfortable he has become in the spotlight, he also managed to sing the Stephen Sondheim song "Nothing's Gonna Harm You" from the Broadway show Sweeney Todd while signing autographs from the edge of the stage.

This guy knows how to work a room.

The only number of the evening that didn't fly high was a duet with Kidjo. The song, "A Woman in Somalia," was meant to remind us of the hardships faced by millions of north Africans. Kidjo, a veteran performer, has a great voice and plenty of charisma, but the song let this duo down.

With lyrics like "She is in a world she didn't choose / and it hurts like brand new shoes," it's surprising this song made it past the Grade 5 poetry police.

Groban wasn't afraid to reach back to his first, self-titled album.

When he sings in a foreign language, it's usually Italian but, last night, he also chose one French song, "Hymne à l'amour," that had been made famous by Édith Piaf six decades ago.

And, to close, he made sure that he left not a single dry female eye in the place, by singing something that has become a pop anthem, "You Raise Me Up."

By the time the concert ended, people's spirits could not have been higher.

Correction: Josh Groban celebrated his birthday last week Singer Josh Groban, born on Feb. 27, 1981, celebrated his 26th birthday last Tuesday. His age was incorrect in the review of his performance at the Air Canada Centre published in yesterday's paper. The Star regrets the error.