Josh Groban Pleases Fans in Anaheim
Orange County Register
August 26, 2007
By Lauren Wilson
HIGH ENERGY: Singer Josh Groban pulls out all the stops to please fans during his performance Saturday at Honda Center in Anaheim.

"Hello, is that a completely ridiculous gift for me?" asks Josh Groban as he accepts a floppy white cowboy hat from a fan in the front row. A couple minutes later, a different fan presents another offering, "Another perfectly appropriate gift, a giant fortune cookie," jokes Groban. "You are loved by your Anaheim Grobanites," says the fortune.

Those Grobanites came out in large numbers, nearly filling the Honda Center on Saturday night. The crowd skewed a little older -- most of the kids who came were there with family. Hardly any unaccompanied groups of teens were present.

"I've come to the conclusion that some of my fans think I'm four years old," says Groban as he launched into a well-rehearsed, self-deprecating spiel on the cheesiness of his music, which he admits is "gag-me-with-a-spoon romantic."

The funny, self-effacing Groban kept up the banter and hammed it up throughout the night; at one point beat-boxing and mimicking techno music and, later on, awkwardly gyrating his hips. The latter took place after a duet with opening act Angelique Kidjo who was attempting, without much success, to teach him to how to dance. Fans laughed and howled at the ungainly sight of Groban bumping booty with Kidjo. The scene proved that the only gymnastics coming from Groban will definitely be of the vocal sort, not that the fans seemed to mind.

Paper hearts were handed out before the show with instructions to "join in the fun" and hold them up when Groban sang "In Her Eyes." When the time came, fans began shrieking hysterically and thrusting their camera phones in Groban's face as he appeared, singing, at the side of the center and slowly made his way back to the stage through the excited audience. Despite the security and cameraman encircling him, it was still a lsurprise that he wasn't completely mobbed by the crowd.

By now, it's a given that the guy can sing. Live, he didn't miss a note, his rich baritone soaring over the wall of sound coming from his orchestra and seven-piece band. Singers with lesser voices may have been swallowed up by that much orchestration but Groban's voice rose above it, mightily making itself the center focus. In fact, with a voice like that, it would have been nice if he sang a couple more songs with a simpler accompaniment like he did during "Lullaby," with just a piano and vocoder or maybe even just the more toned-down orchestration of his final encore, "Awake."

Aside from the puzzling and oftentimes random images projected onto the screen of chandeliers, robots, and growing shrubbery, one of the complaints to be made would be Groban's lack of musical diversity. Sure, he sang one-third or more of his songs in Italian but you can only appreciate so much of his lushly arranged, power pop before the songs start fading into one another indistinguishably.

There were, of course, some exceptions. On CD, the sentimental "You Raise Me Up" can frequently come across as overemotional schmaltz but was a powerful encore when performed live. The chorus of "Alejate" was also strong and soaring.

Groban knows his fan base and knows how to please them. Early in the show, the elderly lady in front of me actually giggled and continued to do so throughout the night. Later on, the woman behind me was whooping and cheering so hard, I thought she might topple over on top of me. Good job, Groban. Mission accomplished.