27 July, 2011

Boston Globe Review...

By Marc Hirsh
Josh Groban is so square that you could use him to draw up architectural plans, and he has a voice - suboperatic, chestily dramatic, borderline nasal, and almost entirely suffused with vibrato - that seems impossibly cheesy on the face of it. But those same characteristics can be awfully effective in the right settings, and he found more than enough of them last night at the TD Garden to make two hours move by rather briskly.

To be sure, there was plenty of ultra-earnest, overdramatic mush-pop on hand. “Per Te," “Galileo," and the eyes-closed, hand-to-the-heart pleading of “Alejate" were songs of not just romance but a particularly windswept, horsebacked romance. The supple, percussive, and full-throated “Alla Luce Del Sole" reached for the roof, and the acoustic guitar and mandolin of “If I Walk Away" couldn’t mitigate the overwrought band behind them.

But Groban also shone on more than a few songs that revealed surprising depth to his undeniable talent. He began the night at a piano on a satellite stage separated from his band, whose acoustic guitar, strings, and brass offered a lovely dimensionality to the opening “Changing Colors." The percussion swells and subliminal organ added to the mournfulness of “Bells of New York City," while “Machine" swayed to a late-’70s jazz-R&B groove, aided by electric piano and Groban himself pulling back a bit on his normally heavy vibrato.

Another mitigating factor was Groban’s easygoing demeanor, garrulous without any of the show-biz slickness of someone like Michael Bublé. When a woman told him, “My son gave you to me for Mother’s Day," he didn’t miss a beat in responding, “All right, I’ll see you later, then." He posed for a photo by a couple brought onstage, only to learn, after standing awkwardly for a while, that they were shooting video.

Best of all was when he accepted a text message invitation to sing “The Prayer" with an audience member’s sister, who had a rather lovely pop alto of her own. After trading lines, she and Groban ended with an unrehearsed but perfect harmony. Groban seemed as delighted as she was.

Opening pianist Eric Lewis called his music “rock-jazz," which was two lies. His solo instrumentals were saccharine and uninspired, with quasiclassical interpolations of popular favorites like “Teenage Dream" and “Mr. Brightside."

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