BWW Reviews: Josh Groban Makes Wolf Trap Debut
Now touring in support of his most recent album All That Echoes, Josh Groban made his Wolf Trap debut last night. A sold out crowd comprised of the young, the old, and the middle-aged rocked out with the talented man as his gloriously pure voice filled the cavernous venue. Backed by the impressive Filene Orchestra and his own band - with violinist Christian Hebel and pianist Ruslan Sirota being standouts - he shared a mix of hits from his most recent album, his previous albums, and covers of well-known pop songs. The welcomed eclectic set list offered a little bit of something for everyone - those who know all of his music and perhaps even those who simply know him as the guy that sang the anthem-like "You Raise Me Up."
While his obviously trained voice lent itself well to all of his song selections, there were a few definite highlights in the mix.
Opening the concert with "Brave" (featured on All That Echoes) he set the energy bar for the night quite high and managed to maintain it. Displaying a nice mix of powerful vocals and natural emotion, his sincere performance of the popular recent hit was one to remember.
Other memorable moments came in the form of his foreign language material. His rendition of the Spanish language "Un Alma Más" was noteworthy not only for his impeccable pronunciation - as a former Spanish major, nothing annoys me more - and his ability to highlight the romanticism of the song. With this, he proved why he is a global superstar whose popularity extends far beyond the United States' borders.
Long-time Groban fans may have also appreciated his decision to feature Don McLean's "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)," found on his debut album. His tender and expressive vocals - prominent in 2004 when he first recorded the song - are even more impressive now as he showed his ability to emotionally connect with the lyrics.
His self-penned "February Song' (featured on the Awake album) was my personal favorite. Showing off not only his impressive song-writing ability but his piano skills, this was an intimate performance that surprisingly worked quite well even in a venue as large as the Filene Center.
The last several selections in the concert, notably Stevie Wonder's "I Believe (When I Fall in Love it Will Be Forever)," the aforementioned "You Raise Me Up," and the iconic "Smile" (with music by Charlie Chaplin), thoroughly demonstrated why Groban is so successful at bridging the classical and pop music divide. The versatile performer can pretty much sing anything and make even the most cold-hearted person feel something even if some of the lyrics are slightly schmaltzy when one looks at them on paper.
While his in-between song banter was slightly painful and awkward - and at times I just wanted him to stop engaging the audience with off the cuff comments and just sing - if there's one thing he proved in this concert it's that his talents extend far beyond that of a technically proficient musician with indescribable natural gifts. His joy over performing is infectious and his ability to engage the crowd far defies his relatively young age.
Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.