27 July, 2011

Boston Herald review...

By Lauren Carter
Josh Groban isn’t provocative, edgy or sexy — at least not in the traditional sense. He appeals more to old-school sensibilities than modern norms of instant gratification, sensationalism and overstimulation.

His music — which ranges from easy listening to pop-opera — is wholesome, straight-laced and, some might say, cheesy. But in an era of overproduced and often soulless live shows where genuine personalities get lost behind pyrotechnics and wardrobe changes, the 30-year-old’s musical and personal honesty is refreshing, even if it doesn’t send pulse rates soaring.

Groban’s two-hour performance at TD Garden last night looked just shy of two-thirds full, highlighting a level of popularity — predominantly with older fans — that hasn’t quite sent him into the stratosphere. And he seems just fine with that.

The multi-lingual show featured Groban’s stunning baritone and mostly safe musical arrangements. The small orchestra that backed him ably recreated dramatic numbers such as “Oceano” and “War At Home,” but Groban offset the gravitas of his music with a goofy, get-to-know-me demeanor.

In between songs, Groban chatted with the ease of a daytime talk-show host, often jogging through the aisles and cozying up to fans. He recounted summer trips to Boston, shared tidbits about his love life, read text messages from the audience, sang “The Prayer” with a fan and promised to win over an 8-year-old in attendance.

“You guys smell awesome,” he said during one of his jaunts into the crowd.

Though much of Groban’s traditional, often-romantic fare felt like variations on the same theme, standouts included “Bells of New York City,” on which he played piano, “Machine,” the African-tinged “Weeping” and a cover of “Live and Let Die.” Show-closer “You Raise Me Up,” sans gospel choir (Groban encouraged the audience to fill in), just slightly underwhelmed. Still, Groban’s sober brand of music and total lack of pretentiousness proved a likable mix.

Opener Eric Lewis could have passed for a two- or three-man band, often plucking strings inside his grand piano with one hand while playing keys with the other. The virtuoso pianist mixed classical, jazz and popular theme songs (“Pink Panther,” for example) with rock hits such as Coldplay’s “Clocks” and the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” which transitioned seamlessly into the “Charlie Brown” theme and still made sense

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