Groban Charms Casino Crowd
August 2, 2007
By Ray Kelly
With boyish good looks, nice guy demeanor and a rich, experienced voice, it's little wonder why Josh Groban has achieved superstar status.
Drawing a capacity crowd Monday night to the Mohegan Sun Arena for the second time in four months, the 26-year-old baritone opened his 19-song set with "You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)," the first single off his most recent disc, "Awake."
He made his way from stage right to stage left, drawing screams and a barrage of flash bulbs from the legion of female Grobanites. Some offered up boxes of candy or other gifts to the singer, who appeared to adore them as much as they adored him.
During the first half of the nearly two-hour concert, Groban moved effortlessly among Spanish, Italian and English songs, including "Un Dia Llegara," "Un Giorno Por Noi" (theme from the 1968 film "Romeo and Juliet") and "Now or Never."
Throughout the night, Groban demonstrated his self-deprecating good humor. He recited the lyrics from his song "So She Dances" - "She's spinning between constellations and dreams/ Her rhythm is my beating heart. "
"I happen to be a cheeseball for this stuff," he told the crowd, adding that he realized many of the men in the audience were accompanying members of his female-dominated fan base.
Seated at a grand piano, Groban offered up "February Song," which he wrote with Five for Fighting lead singer John Ondrasik. Later in the night, he performed "Lullaby," a song he wrote with Dave Matthews.
Groban briefly surrendered the stage to violinist Lucia Micarelli, whose original instrumental morphed into a rousing version of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir."
Micarelli's well-received solo allowed Groban time to enter from the rear of the arena and sing "In Her Eyes" as he slowly made his way through the throng and back to the stage.
He dueted with West African singer Angelique Kidjo on "Pearls" before attempting some ill-advised dance moves with her.
Groban took time during the night to make a pitch for medical and humanitarian relief for Africa and recounted his own trek to South Africa. He performed "Weeping," a song he originally recorded with the South African a cappella singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
A self-professed musical theater lover, Groban sang "Not While I'm Around" from Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd." Considering Groban's admiration for the works of Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, it was regrettable he does not include more Broadway standards in his tour.
Groban closed the night with "Machine," which he recorded with Herbie Hancock last year. He returned for a three-song encore comprised of "Canto Alla Vita" from his 2001 debut disc, the stirring "You Raise Me Up" and "Awake."
Kidjo opened the night with a 35-minute, politely received set that mixed Caribbean and West African music. It included a percussion-driven take on the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter."