Groban Delights Crowd at EnergySolutions Arena
Deseret Morning News
August 29, 2007
By Angie Welling
Little did they know it at the time, but the thousands of Utahns who filled the EnergySolutions Arena to the rafters Tuesday night are going to become stars.

Shortly before the start of Josh Groban's sold-out Salt Lake show, it was announced that the concert would be filmed for the DVD of Groban's 71-city Awake tour.

"You guys are the ones people are going to watch for forever," Groban told his adoring fans midway through the two-plus hour show.

The result was a concert that felt overly staged at times but also perfectly showcased how a 26-year-old former musical theater major has become a worldwide phenomenon.

There is, of course, Groban's golden voice, which is unlike anything in popular music today. It's a voice that can move even the most unmoving of hearts.

But it's not just the voice that has made Groban an unlikely superstar. It is his ability to blend that sound with an amazingly talented nine-piece band and a full orchestra, made up of local musicians, to create a complete musical experience.

From the show-opening "You are Loved (Don't Give Up)" to the penultimate "You Raise Me Up," Groban's 2003 break-out hit, the show was an experience unlike many others offered these days.

Tuesday night, songs such as "Un Dia Llegara," from Groban's newest record, "Awake," came alive with the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar, turning the arena, briefly, into the streets of Spain.

A haunting cello solo by 26-year-old Vanessa Freeman Smith on "Un Giorno Per Noi (Romeo e Giulietta)," also from the new album, made a trip to the arena feel much more like a night at the symphony.

Violinist Lucia Micarelli also had her turn to shine with a powerful solo that left audience members on their feet and in awe.

To the uninitiated, Groban, who took the stage in a black blazer, red T-shirt and blue jeans, does not look the part of a musical genius. With his trademark curls and a goofy grin, he looks more like, in his own words, a "theater geek."

But as soon as his rich baritone makes its appearance, it is clear how a man who sings a fair number of his songs in languages other than English can sell out arena after arena in the United States and abroad.

Of course, Groban's easygoing personality and self-deprecating humor don't hurt either. While he clearly takes his music seriously, Groban made plenty of time Tuesday night to chat with the audience and poke fun at himself.

Groban joked that the overly romantic tone of "So She Dances," from his newest album, is "borderline gag me with a spoon" and questioned how lines like "spinning between constellations and dreams" can inspire such loving feelings in women.

Still, he said, "The ladies love the romantic songs" - a statement that was, of course, seconded by thousands of screaming women.

Even Groban's awkward dancing, encouraged by opening act Anjelique Kidjo - an African performer whose rhythmic half-hour set kicked off the night's worldly tone - couldn't dissuade the women, who regularly shouted words of love at the young performer.

Groban is a bit of a Utah favorite, having performed at the closing ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Olympics. And Tuesday night, Groban expressed his fondness for Salt Lake City, as well.

"This is a city that holds a lot of great memories for me," he said. "Thanks for coming back, and for packing the place."