Josh Groban Awake Tour Review
Preshow: The program cost $20, which is more than I've paid for any other concert program I've bought, but it's also the nicest one. It's made out of very high quality paper with fold outs and a blend of matte and shiny photographic finish. I thought it was interesting that Josh has his own merchandising line "Josh Merchandising," so maybe he can have some say over quality control. His opening act Angelique Kidjo was very impressive vocally and charismatically and girl could stomp around and dance too. I looked it up and she's 46. Obviously quite a seasoned performer, even though I couldn't understand the languages in the African-themed songs. The percussion instrumental backing her up was very cool. Opening act set was about 30 minutes then 35 minute break until Josh Groban took the stage at 9:05.
The set up: Josh has a regular six-piece band and also invited a cellist and a violinist as special guests who part of the touring band. Behind the band is an ensemble of 16 or so local orchestra members. The orchestral stage was pretty fancy, sort of clamshell design with an oval screen behind the two halves, while the main stage had staircases with a small balcony on both sides and a little round jut into the audience front center stage instead of a full blown catwalk which also held a teleprompter (to help him with lyrics on the foreign language songs?). There was a lift center stage that Josh rose out of at the beginning of the show to sing "Don't Give Up" and subsequently also rose to reveal a piano when he accompanied himself on several songs. The requisite multiple spotlights and smoke machine were also present and made for a fairly impressive stage production. Mostly the background movie images being played on the ovalscreen were "new agey" sun rise, woods, candles, except for the weird robot during "Machine."
Set list: Josh performed all the songs and the bonus tracks on the special edition Awake CD. The only English song (since I can't ID the foreign language ones) from his previous albums he did on the set was "Remember when it Rained" and of course "You Raise Me Up" was the final encore. He featured the cellist on stage during his rendition of the love theme from Romeo and Juliet and that was pretty awesome. Guitarist Tariq Akoni got a lot of nice solo time both on the Spanish and electric guitars. The violinist (who performed barefoot in an evening gown) had a solo on "Kashmir" while Josh made his way back to the back of the venue and serenaded fans with "In Her Eyes" (the "I'm not a hero, I'm not an angel, I'm just a man" song that's one of my favorites). He shook hands and made his way back onto the stage. He also sat down on the front of the stage and invited fans to come near while he signed autographs and introduced a Broadway song that he proceeded to sing. He also did a duet with Angelique which will be on her next CD, a song called "Pearls," originally sung by Sade. I'm not sure if their voices blended that well (both very loud, plus very loud band) but they did play off each other very sincerely. Instrumental-wise, he played the piano on two or three songs, and the vocoder during "Lullaby" to simulate the acapella singing of the Ladysmith Black Mambazo (the audience was audibly impressed), and during his encore, he played the drums pretty fiercely. Vocally he was very, well, loud. And had to be to sing over the band, which was borderline bandzilla in volume. I don't think some of his high, held notes got as much appreciation from the crowd as they could have because he was competing to be heard over the band. I don't think he's the most nuanced singer I've ever heard, but he may be the most powerful and can definitely hit all his notes, though his falsetto can sound a little strained at times. Maybe nuance will come with time, or a less loud instrumental backing. The acapella "Lullaby" previously mentioned was probably the most impressive vocal showcase because there was nothing obscuring his voice there. He seems to be able to sell "Machine" better live than he did on the album, where his phrasing is a little stilted.
Audience chatter: Groban was quite charming and funny. He hugged a girl who held up a sign saying "Hug me I'm Grobish" and joked "Am I Grobish now too? Do I have Grobanitis?" When he invited the audience to come close (and people came up soliciting autographs), he was like great, why don't you all come up, there's only 14,000 people. He also imitated Mr. Rogers and sang a little big of "it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" and joked that the stage lift was "magic" when it brought out the piano. After a standing ovation mid-set, he commented Boston had the best crowd (I guess usually Groban concerts don't generally give standing ovations until the end of the show), and there were a lot of screams from the audience. "I love you Josh" was responded to with "I love you more, no really" and when a guy yelled out something indecipherable, he was mock-astonished, "there are guys here?" and commanded them to "Show yourselves!" then proceeded in a tough guy voice to say "Uh, so what's up guys?" Heh. He also pandered to the men in the audience a bit by saying how grateful he was to have all these love songs written for him so he could just use those when trying to impress girls since he's so awkward with words (pretends to stutter), "You know what it's like, guys. So honey, this is how I feel" (pretends to turn on music). He also joked about the title of "So she dances" as something that would be said by a guy with a twirly mustache. He did a pretty good job of moving from side to side on the ginormous stage. There was also a nice bit where they played his visit to South Africa and he discussed how it inspired him as a person and as a musician.
Overall it was an enjoyable show. A nice blend of powerful singing backed up by highly impressive instrumentalists with cute audience interaction that lasted approximately 110 minutes. As usual I didn't take any photos so to spice up this entry I'll post some fun a/v from Youtube of one of my favorite songs from Josh's last tour, his new-age cover of Linkin Park's "My December":