Expect the unexpected. There may not be three words that better describe today’s popular music. So it shouldn’t surprise us when a particular 17-year old singer declares that he wants to be a “young father.” Or when a certain cross-dressing performer beefs up her stage show with a steak – or more appropriately mistake – wardrobe.
And you know things are unpredictable when singing certainty Josh Groban announces the release of an album titled Josh Groban’s The Best Tweets of Kanye West (“featuring 752 original songs on 48 CDs”). OK, so maybe that last one was with Groban’s tongue planted firmly in cheek.
It just goes to show that the ultra-talented vocalist can belt out some serious tunes – without taking himself too seriously. All the same, fans at the US Airways Center stop on Groban’s Straight To You Tour were a bit uncertain as to what to expect from the jocular Josh.
But they were certain of one thing – Groban was sure to deliver his unfailing unparalleled musical performance. And so it was in The Valley Of The Sun.
Even accomplished artists find it challenging to satisfy everyone – especially when the crowd includes a number of significant others that were dragged kicking and screaming to the show. But Groban was clearly up to the challenge from the moment the brilliant singer lit up the stage with “Straight to You” from his most recent record Illuminations.
Prefer the more intimate Groban? Then you loved the opening set of songs from the smaller stage, with Groban and his piano playing cozy covers of the Great Lake Swimmers’ “Changing Colors” and his own “February Song” (in August no less).
Perhaps you like Groban the operatic tenor best. His exquisite editions of “Alla Luce Del Sole,” “Alejate,” and “Oceano” filled the concert hall with melodic nectar – even if the fans needed a translator to understand the lyrics.
Or just maybe the orchestral Groban hits all the right notes for you. Once he made it to the bigger stage, the superior sounds from Groban’s electric-lite orchestra on the soaring “Bells of New York City” proved that his supporting cast was doing much more than just stringing him along.
The matchless singer wasn’t content to simply show off his peerless pipes. He bowled over the crowd with his percussive prowess on a drum overture to “Voce Existe Em Mim.”
Just for good measure, Groban channeled a music legend or two. Before gliding into the Fab Fourish “Higher Window,” he knowingly reminded the crowd that “Sometimes love is like (Celine Dion’s) ‘My Heart Will Go On’…and sometimes love sucks.” Were there ever truer words?
He helped fans to come together later in the show, carrying on the Beatles’ tribute with a rousing cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live And Let Die,” highlighted by an unbelievable string intro from the backing ensemble.
Groban even shared his secret for navigating through life’s confusing moments. Whenever he gets stumped, he simply asks himself, “What would Neil Diamond do?” (Are you listening President Obama?) The gifted artist musically answered his own question with an inspired version of Diamond’s “Play Me.”
The friendly fan favorite was at his best as he displayed his delightful sense of humor throughout the show. Groban’s instinctive wit and effortless timing left fans convinced that a comedic second career was a distinct possibility.
As predictably outstanding as the music was, Groban still had a few tricks up his tuneful sleeve, including a duet on the small stage with a very lucky texter from the audience and several forays into the crowd via the GAPs (Grobanite Access Points) in the stage.
To no one’s surprise and everyone’s delight, Groban ended the melodic mélange with a powerful “You Raise Me Up,” whereupon the Grobanites witnessed the most extraordinary event of the evening.
Remember all of those skeptics that came to the show simply to humor their girlfriend/wife/significant other? Not a one of them moved a muscle when the last note sounded.
Seems the Josh Groban doubters had gotten religion…