Groban Proves a Clever Crooner: Singer Mixes Romantic, Rock Star
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
August 7, 2007
By Dane Tianen
In his romantic blend of pop and classical stylings, Josh Groban probably most closely resembles Andrea Bocelli. But as he demonstrated Tuesday night at the Bradley Center, there are lots of differences that serve to set Groban apart. There is a minor current of rock star running through Josh Groban. Bocelli doesn't write songs with Dave Matthews or Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik. He doesn't cop rock star moves like running the length of the stage slapping outstretched hands or seizing the mic stand at a rakish tilt.

But if Josh Groban is part rock star, he is the sweetest, cuddliest, gentlest, most endearing of rock stars. Even at 26 there is still something almost puppyish about the crooner. That boyishness is obviously something he's keenly aware of. Early in the show one adoring fan approached the stage and handed Groban a teddy bear, which prompted the good natured observation: "I've come to realize many of my fans think I'm 4 years old."

There have been other crooners who sang love songs in romantic languages; Julio Iglesias comes to mind. But his fans were generally in his age range. The core of Groban's fan base, however, seems to be women who are old enough to be much older sisters or mothers and occasionally grandmothers. If there were anything remotely sexual about Groban's music that might be sort of creepy, but with the exception of the African influenced "Lullaby" and the funky Herbie Hancock collaboration "Machine," the mood was almost entirely romantic.

There is probably a level on which I'm not going to "get" Josh Groban without the assistance of radical surgery and a big dose of hormone therapy. Obviously he has a stunning instrument. To these ears the evening's most stunning moment might have been the closing encore of the gospel song "You Raise Me Up" - even with the thumping support of a full gospel chorus and full orchestra, Groban's power and passion shine through.

He seems genuinely enthralled by black music. The African pop stylist Angelique Kidjo opened for him and came on for a duet on "Pearls." One has to think that most of his audience had no idea who Angelique Kidjo is, so that demonstrates a willingness to experiment and broaden his music that bodes well for the future.


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