Angelic Evening
Edmonton Journal
August 15, 2007
By Colin Maclean
Groban doesn't disappoint masses

Josh Groban performs for about 9,000 adoring fans last night at Rexall Place.

Josh Groban ascended into the firmament last night at Rexall Place.

As is only right for the man who has been (incessantly) described as possessing the voice of an angel.

Turns out Groban had some help from a pneumatic lift but for the 9,000 adoring fans, mostly middle aged and older with a smattering of young people, gathered in fevered communion, he might might as well have been borne by a divine power.

Groban did not disappoint, displaying a robust, full-bodied voice not obvious from his CDs.

He moved dynamically about the stage and, at one point, right into the stands - much to the squealing delight of all.

The singer has an open, likeable stage personality and seemed quite willing to send up his demi-god image.

He observed how much easier it is for him to sing the oft-times schmaltzy lyrics of his songs than it would be to say them.

But from what was on display last night, he enjoys the kind of music he makes and respects the audience who shows up to listen.

The fact is that, with his sexy curls, soft boiled eyes and commanding stage presence, he looks like the Greek god next door.

And, oh yes, there is always the butterscotch voice. The singer boasts a huge dramatic and vocal range and it was much on display last night as he rambled through a repertoire of song from his albums, personal appearances and films.

His expressive baritone and impeccable technical control were buffered and supported by a team of sympathetic arrangements and played by two bands - a pop\ rock group and a string orchestra.

Groban arrived dressed in a simple black jacket, a nautical striped sweater and designer jeans and sneakers.

A fashionable light beard could be seen on the big screens.

There was the usual light show, while behind him projections gave us growing plants (apparently The Awake Tour is good for the environment), floating candles, stars and planets.

Groban opened with his hit You Are Loved (Don't Give Up).

Alas, the dreaded deadline drove me out of the hall before he got into some of the big hits but early on there was a beautiful, voluptious version of Un Giorno por Noi, Nino Rota's theme from Zefferelli's Romeo And Juliet.

The singer is quite capable of full bore operatic projection while still controlling his vibrato, pitch and falsetto.

As usual, standing at the side of the stage was his long- time musical partner, violinist Lucia Micarelli, who not only plays the Joshua Bell solo from one of Groban's CDs but mounts a high energy, high decibel turn on her own that probably is still reverberating in the corners of the hall.

The 26-year-old Groban is in the forefront of a crossover wavelet called popera. The group is led by Andrea Bocelli and includes Charlotte Church, Sarah Brightman and Il Divo.

Except unlike the passionless Il Devo, Groban delivers a full measure of ardour.

Popera is a classical-lite style that uses large orchestras, lush ever-building crescendos and upward modulations along with inspirational, cathedral chords.

Many of the songs are sung in Italian, French or Spanish leading to a psuedo operatic feel.

Groban was discovered by uberproducer David Foster and immediately uplifted to sing a duet with Celine Dion and has never looked back. His albums have been produced by Foster and have benefited from the multiple Grammy Award winner's opulent arrangement.

But judging from last night's show, Groban is one of those performers who sound better "live" than he does on CD.

His warmup act Angelique Kidjo was a bald-pated, African whirlwind. Warm is the operative word because Ms. Kidjo has a set of brass pipes that could jar the fillings out of your teeth and personally bring on global warming. What a set.

The high point was a version of the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter that Mick would die to be able to deliver at his time of life.

It was a thrilling evening.