Josh Groban Impresses at Wachovia Show
News of Delaware
March 8, 2007
By Len Rosen
They call themselves the Grobanites. No kidding, but plenty of Josh.
They're reportedly not from another planet, although the Grobanites seemingly believe that the object of their affections is from Paradise.
Paradise is not exactly another planet. Last Thursday, however, it was a place to get away from it all in an extremely romantic and swooning manner.
"Romantic" and "swooning." Did those terms just launch male readers toward their remote controls for a tough choice between ESPN and ESPN2?
Could be, but here's a Thursday shocker from the Wachovia Center: The Josh Groban concert was something like a belated Valentine's gift for the females who brought their husbands or boyfriends or significant others or insignificant substitutes along for Cupid's arrow-filled evening in South Philadelphia.
And the cross-section wasn't just gender-based. The sold-out Wachovia was like a rainbow coalition of ages: everybody from college students to the baby boomers and above, those often spotted at doo wop concerts or swinging or a star, figuratively these days, to a Sinatra classic at home.
Groban, who projects a personality combination of "I'll woo you" and "lets dream together through my sonorous baritone," said, on stage, that the term "Grobanites" is not his preference (perhaps too cultish or hovering spacecraft-ish).
"It's okay to be 'fans,' "he said with princely modesty to the unswervingly devoted, the Grobanites who regularly gather and chat long and longingly - and electronically - at www.joshgroban.com. It's a giant Web site that includes Many Nicer Americans who aren't so uplifted by rock and roll that has mostly lost its way, or rap that's found too much of it.
You want ultra-nice based on the Josh adorable and sweet modesty gone charismatic? OK, wish granted on www.grobanitesforcharity.org. That's where fans go to participate in charities chosen by Groban and his family. His fans want a towering pedestal, and they will support it with love and money.
There are some 20,000 Grobanites alive and communicating on the Web site message boards. Countries represented on the JG boards include Malaysia and Indonesia, not usually stereotyped as hotbeds of love epics and sentiment.
Closer to home, some 100 of the Josh faithful gathered at Chickie's and Pete's in South Philadelphia two hours prior to the concert, many meeting, from a flesh and blood standpoint, for the first time.
They identified each other by the yellow roses pinned to their shirts. South Philadelphia: That's where, for example, message board Gronbanites ChrisannZ of northern New Jersey and savvyspirals of Maine (16-hour bus ride to Philadelphia) finally met face to face. Take that, the yellow rose of Texas.
Unconditional JG love it is. Sinatra generated it in the 1940s, Elvis in the 50s, the Beatles in the 60s, Tom Jones in the 70s. Then musical love notes yielded to other forces - raucous rock that kind of mocked it, for example - before making a semi-comeback with Harry Connick in the 1990s
If Groban's not at the peak of his musical powers at 26, he's awfully close. His passion merged with a sense of urgency in Philadelphia, where the non-Grobians were at least Wachovians for the evening.
Groban sometimes sung in English, but switching to Spanish or Italian made him particularly mesmerizing and semi-operatic. Romantically, he practically placed stars on the Wachovia roof. To Sixer and Flyers fans, that would clearly be different than the stars tumbling from the same roof this season.
Groban's modus operandi was to rise romantically, then rise more in South Philadelphia, where unabashed romance once had its heydey courtesy of residents Mario Lanza, Eddie Fisher and Buddy Greco. Groban's CDs and PBS appearances offer but broad hints of romantic showmanship that captivated Wachovia hearts which, admittedly, were exceedingly open to it last week.
When he sang, "You Are Love (Don't Give Up)," you wanted to fall in love - or enrich what's there - just for the inspiration that Groban was providing for the heightened moment. Groban, who could undoubtedly enhance the American songbook standards, avoids them, yet he paid homage to show music in "Not While I'm Around" from "Sweeney Todd."
What Groban sings, however, is not as memorable as what he projects. His sense of shyness and vulnerability is counter-pointed by a big voice that's both dramatic and majestic. Mothers might be torn between wanting him for their younger selves or their daughters.
Hearts, indeed, went lighter and faster when Groban climbed the staircases on each side of the stage and sang "Weeping" to the second and third-level seated Grobanites. He was playing to hearts that had not quite surrendered to the mood yet.
At the top of the staircase, Groban gazed up into what could now be construed as a balcony, a Romeo seeking his Juliet. And there was no shortage of would-be Juliets as Groban kept mining the vein and wrenching the heart in one continuous musical motion. Only the clingiest skeptic in your soul could resist.
Speaking of counterpoint, Lucia Micarelli, part of the string section, made the violin a pop instrument -almost an attack instrument - with a solo that verged on Flamenco. Drama reigned again, but this time sentiment was far behind passion. Memo to readers' agenda books: Sample, at least a little, her two CDs.
Just as Micarelli finished her solo, just as spectators were descending their own inner staircases, a voice swept through the Wachovia Center, gentle yet powerful, hope expanding and advancing - the start of a parade, a pageant, a spectacle. Roses, yellow roses, weren't being thrown at Josh Groban's feet, but they should have been.
Heads are turning faster than the pages of hit thriller. Here he comes, Triumph with a Voice -- the path paved by security guards and the momentum of the moment. Fans rush to the edges of where he might arrive en route to the stage. Excitement modifies "what will he do next?" He's singing "In Her Eyes" for all the eyes straining and hurrying to see him. Partially obscured and singing for the ages, including 18 to 80.
How long will it all last? Only the clairvoyants have a clue. Just be grateful that Groban never lived his adolescent rock star fantasies because, now, midway through the Wachovia concert, Triumph reaches the stage, signing autographs for his Grobanites. And he sings the whole time. In English for now. Later, in Spanish. In Italian. In all his glory.