23 July, 2011

Ottawa Sun Review...

By Denis Armstrong of the Ottawa Sun.

Packed with charm
Groban plays his hits — and the crowd – with unconventional crossover act

As much as older listeners might enjoy them, musical crossovers get a bad rap as pop music’s equivalent to a happy meal, but at Scotiabank Place Friday night, the king of crossover Josh Groban crossed over indeed into ambitious and splendidly entertaining musical terrain with his latest and most ambitious album, Illuminations.

Judging by his superb show Friday night, it looks like the lanky 30-year-old did the right thing, teaming up with eccentric super-producer Rick Rubin, who’s worked with everyone from Slayer to Metallica.

Groban’s latest disc cuts loose some from the steady diet of operatic love songs to tackle riskier, but oddly satisfying exotics by Rufus Wainwright and Nick Cave. It makes for a pretty unconventional live gig too.

Stage at centre ice

Dressed in a T-shirt and jacket and runners and looking like one of the crew, a solitary Groban walked onto a small stage at centre ice while his travelling chamber orchestra on stage played an instrumental version of his title hit Straight To You.

At the piano, Groban opened with Changing Colors and February Song alone before flattering the nearly 5,000 fans — in French and English — about how beautiful Ottawa’s been before singing his big hit You Are Loved leaving women of all ages in a pool.

Accompanied by a small chamber orchestra including harp, two drummers and Spanish guitarist, Groban performed the love song Alejante, the first a many arty songs he’d sing in Spanish, Italian and French.

By now, Groban’s gig was settling into a comfortable rhythm, with the L.A. crooner masterfully singing as if he were the romantic lead in a Broadway musical. On one walkabout, after laying on the boyish charm again, he was kissed by two elderly women before getting a thumbs-up from a nine-year-old named Emma before speaking briefly about his recent move to New York City.

He moved to the piano for Bells of New York City, Hidden Window, Au Jardin Des Sans-Pourquoi — a song co-written with Rufus Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle.

War At Home and a high-octane orchestral version of McCartney’s Live and Let Die was next with Groban playing the drums on Voce Existe Em Mim before answering tweeted questions from the audience, including a request from one fan named Camille to sing Groban’s When You Say You Love Me with him.

Glass of wine

She was good enough a singer, that she clearly upstaged an impressed Groban, who handed her the microphone.

“That takes balls,” Groban joked afterwards.

It takes balls to bring fans he met earlier on stage, pouring a couple married 40 years a glass of wine, something milder for that nine-year-old Emma before singing Broken Vow, a soaring Per Te and a cover of Neil Diamond’s classic Play Me and his encore You Raise Me Up.

You certainly get your money’s worth with Groban.

He has one of the most beautiful baritone voices in all pop, one that just doesn’t quit, is an inexhaustible performer, is just so damn likable, and doesn’t do the usual arena rock show.

Groban’s made it safe to do crossover pop again.

Opening the show was jazz and sol pianist extraordinaire ELEW, a laid-back guy who’s talent for playing the piano in unusual ways, playing The Police hit Every Breath You Take with My Favourite Things at the same time.
(Source - check the link to see some great pictures from the show)

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