15 July, 2011

Bank Arena Cincinnati...

...By Paul Clark from Cincinnati.com
So there was Josh Groban, juggling fruit onstage while a female fan licked her elbow.

“The kind of thing that could only have happened on this tour,” he says.

That would be Groban’s “Straight to You” tour, due at U.S. Bank Arena Friday night. During each show he invites audience members to send text messages to backstage staff who choose a few for Groban to read aloud.

On the night in question, a texter asked whether Groban has any hidden circus talents. The fan boasted that she can lick her elbow, so Groban invited her up to demonstrate.

“I’ve tried licking my elbow. It’s impossible,” Groban said. “So I juggled. I improvised with an apple, a baseball and I think a lime.

“We had done small shows where we took questions that were yelled out from the crowd, but that would be unruly in an arena setting. I’m a little nervous before that segment, but it brings a different energy to the show.”

Groban also has been juggling different musical approaches this tour. Known for a supersized voice that was made for singing to the balcony, he’s mixing his beloved booming ballads with stripped-down sounds from his fifth studio album, “Illuminations.”

“While the spirit and intimacy of that record is there. the vibrancy of the shows are representative of all five records,” he said. “I love big sound. But for those who think ('Illuminations’) was a wonderful departure, it will be represented.”

Fans will likewise find Groban playing against type in the screen comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love” premiering two weeks from Friday. The movie, featuring Steve Canell and Ryan Gosling, casts Groban as Emma Stone’s jerk boyfriend, seemingly a stretch for the notoriously nice Groban.

He’s so affable that he’s even good-natured if people poke fun at his amiable image. In a video on the “Funny or Die” website, Groban plays a dual role as himself and a smarmy interviewer asking cliché questions (“Are you single?”) and assuring the singer that “my mom’s a big fan.”

“I have fun poking fun at [that image], because it’s not entirely true,” Groban says. “The crowd is so diverse. It’s more than your mom.”

In Cincinnati, the fans include a couple of Groban’s great-aunts who live in the area.

“It will be something of a hometown show,” he says. “I have many relatives in Cincinnati. Aunt Sis is in Cincy. She says ‘Oh, I can’t keep the buttons on, I’m so proud.’”

So, clueless interviewers and surprise questions from audience members aside, what would Groban prefer to discuss if he really did interview himself?

“I could talk about music, but that’s boring. Sports, Wimbledon I could talk about. I could talk about food all day long. I’m kind of a foodie. I could just eat my way through various boroughs.”

Is he single?

“I am single at the moment,” he says. “It’s one of those things you write about when you tap into at the moment. With ‘Illuminations’ we didn’t want to just throw big love anthems out there. It was a project I needed to do. We wanted to face the truth.”

Which can be nearly as hard as licking your elbow.

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