Josh Groban Thrills Staples
Presented by Live Nation. Reviewed March 31, 2007.
Josh Groban started his Saturday night concert at Staples Center by assuring
his fans that "when your heart's heavy/I will lift it for you." For the
evening's big finale, the shoe was on the other foot: This time, the aud was
doing the lifting -- "You raise me up," he exalted. In between came two hours of
the kind of soft-focus uplift favored by Hallmark and Oprah Winfrey -- two of
Groban's biggest supporters.
Band: Tariq Aroni, Craig MacIntyre, Tim Curle, Lucia Micarelli, Colleen
Also appearing, Angelique Kidjo.
Josh Sells Out STAPLES
You don't get friends like that unless you're undeniably popular: Groban's
last two albums, 2004's "Closer" and last year's "Awake" (143/Reprise), have
both gone platinum, and Staples Center was sold out. Like Hallmark and Oprah,
Groban doesn't demand much from his fans; he coddles them with lushly
orchestrated aural assurance.
It was an evening of low-impact bombast with new-age touches (the latter
mostly supplied by the visuals, computer animations along the lines of plants
taking root and moonrises over calm waters). The semi-operatic material he
favors ("Un Giorno Per Noi," better known as the love theme from the 1968 film
"Romeo and Juliet"; the cloying romance of "So She Dances") is filled with
great swells and gentle crescendos and swaddled by a 15-piece string section;
even an instrumental version of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," a showcase for
violinist Lucia Micarelli, is stripped of its exoticism.
Groban has a lovely voice, with a warm and supple tone and power that's
unforced from his natural baritone to a sweet falsetto. But he has a tendency
to overdo the vibrato; both he and his audience operate under the belief that
any emotion sounds that much more important when it's sung with a quiver.
He's attractive but unthreatening, smiling his way through every song, shaking
his loose, curly hair; he's as robotically, relentlessly upbeat as a Stepford
wife. Every venue Groban's played is "wonderful," every musician is
"incredibly talented," and he reminds the audience -- multiple times -- that
they're "awesome." Even a recent visit to Walter Reed Medical Center is
recounted in tones of hushed awe and a bland reminder that we should "support
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