North Charleston Coliseum
California-raised, internationally acclaimed pop/classical singer Josh Groban demonstrated more than enough charm, wit, and technique to dazzle a large crowd of "Grobanites" at the North Charleston Coliseum on Tuesday evening (Nov. 1). Not so familiar with his recordings and concert work, I went there prepared to snicker at what I assumed would be cheesy, sugary, and tacky. Within three songs, he'd won me over.
Groban recently returned to the U.S. from Europe, where he led the Straight To You Tour from arena to arena in support of his latest album, Illuminations. Groban worked with veteran rock/country producer Rick Rubin on Illuminations. The collection debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's Top 200 chart earlier this year.
The audience-interactive show at the Coliseum went smoothly, with an elaborate design resembled an old castle archway, two stages, and tasteful lighting and projection. Backed by a super-tight ensemble of strings, brass, guitars, and percussion, Groban cheerfully sang through an eclectic set of carefully orchestrated pop originals and elaborate renditions of varied opera, rock, and world-music pieces. His funny banter between tunes balanced his serious and powerful delivery on the verses and choruses.
"I appreciate you all coming out. I know you paid out the wazoo to be here," Groban said between opening numbers. "So the least I can do is sing out my wazoo tonight ... I guess that sounds gross. Sorry!" That was just one of many casual anecdotes of the show.
Dual quartets of strings (cello, viola, and two violins) and brass (trumpet, trombone, and two French horns) started the show with a dynamic instrumental on the steps at the front of the stage. Fans at the back of the room were delighted to see Groban walk in from the back aisle and take seat at a small upright piano on a small stage. He sang his first three songs of the evening from this perch. His band gradually chimed in with instrumentation.
The syrupy ballad "You are Loved (Don't Give Up)" struck a nerve, as many teary-eyed fans started to swoon and sing along. Groban sauntered down the aisle and through the crowd to the main stage, where he continued to lead his band through ballads and anthems (some sung in Spanish, Brazilian, or Italian), singing either on a single, hand-held mic or from a bench at a grand piano.
Groban's gracious manner and vocal range were unexpectedly entertaining and uplifting. I left with an enhanced respect and admiration for the guy. He had great pipes and was corny but his warm sense of humor and high level of fan appreciation were just as impressive.