Josh Groban Rocks Their World (Y Chromosomes Need Not Apply)
Pioneer Press
August 10, 2007
By Ross Raihala, Pop Music Critic
A bank of supercomputers, a team of NASA scientists and a boardroom full of Hollywood producers couldn't create an entertainer as shamelessly perfect as Josh Groban. Perfect, that is, in directly targeting anyone still acquainted with their inner teenage girl.

Groban's got the chops of a band geek, the charm of a drama-club president and the floppy haircut of the basketball team's star center. He sings ballads, sometimes in Italian! He cracks jokes at his own expense! He writes or, at the very least, reads poetry! And, deep down, he really understands! The only thing left for the guy to do in crafting his adolescent fantasy world is take the stage atop a wild stallion named Freedom.

So it's not much of a surprise the sold-out crowd of about 13,000 at Groban's Friday gig in St. Paul was heavy on Mrs. Robinsons ready to swoon the night away. And in terms of catering directly to that audience, Groban delivered.

Drawing heavily from his latest album, "Awake," the 26-year-old offered a more lively and varied performance than in his last visit to town, a Target Center gig in early 2005. The Xcel Energy Center's far superior acoustics helped, as did Groban's steps - baby steps, but steps nonetheless - toward expanding beyond the glossy pop-opera sound that made him famous.

To wit, he invited opener Angelique Kidjo onstage for a cover of Sade's gorgeous "Pearls" that was a winner, despite its jarring arrangement.

Elsewhere, the piano-driven "February Song," co-written by Cities 97 favorite John "Five for Fighting" Ondrasik, proved Groban's got more than a little Coldplay in him. At one point, he even ceded the stage to violinist Lucia Micarelli, who performed a solo that blossomed into Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" - and did so with such intensity, it appeared as if she was in the midst of a seizure.

There was plenty, though, for those who prefer their Groban straight up and heavy on the cheese and/or corn. He chatted extensively with the crowd and - after "Kashmir" - made the deeply courageous decision to sing one song while strolling through the arena, allowing fans to wildly grab and grope him along the way. At one point, he jokingly launched into a mini karaoke set of Journey, Bon Jovi and Elton John numbers. He also let Kidjo "teach" him how to dance during a routine delivered with all the subtlety of Mr. Roper on "Three's Company." And for his breakthrough hit, "You Raise Me Up," he donned a Minnesota Wild jersey.

All of which added up to a likable and obviously memorable evening for the majority of the audience. As for those with a Y chromosome, well, at least the lines for the bathrooms weren't too long.