July 8, 2011
Target Center, Minneapolis
BY STACY SCHWARTZ
When you think of Josh Groban, my guess is you think about opera, classical music, or your parents. Yeah, me too. Groban's show at the Target Center on Friday night both solidified those thoughts and then shattered them.
Dressed in a suit coat, v-neck tee, and tennis shoes, Groban didn't really fit the profile of any opera singer I've ever seen. His shaggy hair and stubble made him seem much more laid back and down to earth than I expected. He was actually pretty cute and damn funny. Groban began the show at a smaller stage mid-arena outfitted with an upright piano. Admittedly, I missed the first four songs as they made photographers wait until he moved to the larger stage before letting us in. Once inside, however, we got to check out the grandiose set pieces and huge orchestra onstage.
The set was reminiscent of some sort of decaying Roman archway or amphitheater, where projections that related to the song at hand were played. The brass and string quartets and a percussionist (African drums, gong, etc.) were on one side, while a more traditional drum kit, bass player and guitarist were on the other. A grand piano took up center stage. For the most part Groban stayed on the mic, while playing piano on a few songs and a paired-down drum kit on another.
Groban interacted with his audience quite a bit, taking time to give a rabid fan a hug (she seriously wouldn't let go and kept kissing his cheek - Groban said, "I feel equal parts jubilated and violated."), got a 35-year married couple, a 15-year old and a 10-year old on stage to serenade them, and responded to some questions texted in earlier in the evening. Beyond his soaring vocals, this was the highlight of the night.
The first question was about which useless superhero power he'd want (Go-Go Gadget Hugging Arms to hug everyone here); favorite pick-up line ("Hi, I'm Josh Groban... ok, that only works sometimes. Usually I get, 'That's awesome! My mom wants to hug you.'"); and a guy named Matthew, who asked to sing a duet with the star. Groban obliged and he and Matthew broke out into the song "Remember When It Rained," doing a pretty great job at that.
At times the show was a bit too new-agey for my liking. I enjoyed it more when Groban stuck to a classical sound, or even when he covered Neil Diamond, than when the synthesizers kicked in. The full orchestral sound was nice, but just a bit much at times. I'd rather focus on Groban's vocals, which is the reason most people were there anyway. His voice is flawless and he makes anything sound good - even when he's goofing off and covering Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" in between songs. Overall, the show was lighthearted, entertaining, and gorgeous. Groban definitely gets props for entertaining the younger crowd, while keeping the more mature audience enraptured with his vocal expertise.
It's also worth a mention that one of the other things Groban is doing on this tour is supporting local arts programs and asking people to donate to them. For this visit to Minneapolis he partnered with Free Arts Minnesota, a non-profit dedicated to "bringing the healing powers of artistic expression into the lives of abused, neglected and at-risk children and their families." Groban also asked the audience to donate to his own charity, the Find Your Light Foundation, which works to provide every child with arts education.
Personal Bias: I've heard maybe 3-4 total Groban songs in my life (my mother LOVES him), but was sort of long-shot hoping he'd cater to the younger part of the crowd and cover some of Kanye West's tweets.
The Crowd: Mostly late 40s - 60s, with a smattering of 20-30-somethings shrieking every time he spoke to the crowd.
Overhead In the Crowd: "Well isn't he just the cutest thing you've ever seen?"
Random Notebook Dump: I'm waiting for the Microsoft screen savers that are being projected on the background to start in with the tubes. You know the ones...
For more of photos: See my complete slideshow.
Straight To You
You Are Loved
Bells of New York City
Alla Luce Del Sole
War At Home
Live & Let Die (Wings cover)
Voce Existe Em Mim
If I Walk Away
Play Me (Neil Diamond cover)
You Raise Me Up