Groban's Tones Lift Crowd
Times Leader
August 1, 2007
By Lisa Sokolowski
Soaring melodies of international singing star entrance fans at Arena

Josh Groban's voice blasted from behind a curtain, a subtle message saying it isn't about Groban's looks or charm, but his vocal chords.

When the curtain lifted a few lines into You Are Loved (Don't Give Up), the headlining set's opening song, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause, almost as if Groban was a modern-day Elvis. He's not the King of Rock, but perhaps the King of Popera.

No matter, he was the king of the Wachovia Arena on Tuesday night.

The audience clung to his every word, every note filling the arena with a sound that you could almost feel. It sent shivers up your body, the way he could soar from the low notes into a falsetto, a break in his voice never a possibility.

Groban sang many of the songs off his most recent release, Awake,including, February Song, the tune he co-wrote with Five For Fighting's John Ondrasik. When Groban sat at the piano for that song, it was one of the few times he wasn't energetically running between the stairs set up on either side of the stage, singing as loudly as his powerful lungs would allow him.

His fans not only showed appreciation with gifts of stuffed animals, lollypops and a Frisbee (which Groban said he would pass along to his dog), they did so by approaching the stage and shaking his hand.

And Groban obliged, even signing an autograph for an elementary-school-sized boy in the front row named Keith.

Keith got Groban's autograph but later re-approached the stage.

When Groban realized he was back, he went to Keith to ask what he needed.

"My pen," he said.

Groban found the writing implement among his own gifts and gave it back to Keith, sending him back to his seat to a roar of laughter from the audience.

Groban laughed uncomfortably just a bit, but he was confident as he walked through the audience during In Her Eyes, a song that starts its chorus with "I am not a hero/ I am not an angel/ I am just a man."

But to the concertgoers on Tuesday night, he wasn't just a man -- he was a way to escape the mundane of their week and to be awed by a 26-year-old who seems larger than possible, and incredibly appreciative to be that.

Groban took the time out to talk about how much he enjoyed the soloists in his band -- the violinist, the cellist and the guitarists -- and introduced everyone else to much applause. But that's not to say he could have done without the chamber orchestra that sat along the back of the set that resembled a velodrome, rather than being cramped into a corner.

That orchestra took a page out of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's book by playing an instrumental version of Led Zeppelin. With an orchestra with that talent in the house, it would have been a shame to not showcase them -- even if it meant having a Groban-less song in the set.

He closed with the ever-popular You Raise Me Up, the song which topped Billboard's Adult Contemporary singles chart in 2004. Although it would be safe to assume most of the audience knew every lyric, they let Groban's voice soar through the silence and, instead of singing, the fans sat in awe of the show that was quickly ending.

Angelique Kidjo opened the night with her unique style of what could be considered Afropop, if it needed to be pigeonholed into a generic genre.

Though Kidjo is now living in New York, she chooses to sing mostly in her native African dialect. That, however, didn't stop the audience from dancing -- or singing along to the chorus.

Many front row ticket-holders stormed the aisles, waving their hands above their heads and using the arena floor as their own personal dance hall.

Before her final song, Kidjo urged audience members to live life, saying "When you're 6 feet under," it's too late.

And that's what the entire audience did during the show -- lived like they weren't at a concert on a Tuesday evening, one that might leave them groggy for work in the morning.

But, when they're reaching for that extra cup of coffee, they'll remember it was worth it.