Self-described ‘cheeseball’ Josh Groban to return to Boise

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Just because Barry Manilow gives me the willies doesn’t mean I’m averse to all forms of cheesy romantic singing. (And don’t worry, there’s already been a Letter to the Editor submitted that spanks me for my Sunday column.)

So it is with great joy (OK, moderate enthusiasm) that I share news of Josh Groban‘s upcoming stop in Boise.

Groban will bring his “In the Round” tour to Taco Bell Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 2. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at Select-a-Seat. The full range of prices was not available, but tickets start at $59.50, according to promoter Live Nation.

I attended a Groban concert in 2007. I was surprised by how self-effacing and funny he was. Here’s the review:

Review: Josh Groban proves he’s no dancer, but he sure can sing

By Michael Deeds

Josh Groban was rotating his hips, and it was not a pretty sight.

Opening act Angelique Kidjo — the rhythmic fireball from Benin — was attempting to teach the baritone singer to dance in front of the Idaho Center audience and, well … good luck with that, Kiddo — er, Kidjo.

“She’s got moves that I’ve never seen before, ” Groban said Tuesday night, feigning panic.

Earlier, rumbling across the stage during his set’s first song, “You Are Loved, ” Groban’s lack of athleticism was jaw-dropping. Clunking his black boots up five steps to platforms on either side, he struck poses and crooned while about 8,000 fans — many twice his age — screamed their lungs out.

After all, the only gymnastics that mattered came from Groban’s voice. Three things jumped out at this surprisingly entertaining concert:

1) As fans already know, Groban is not an opera singer, he is an operatic pop singer.

2) Groban is way fun between his oft-melodramatic songs.

3) Curly-haired dude can sing.

Dressed smartly in jeans, a white T-shirt and a gray pin-striped sport jacket, Groban wasted no time unleashing his perfect vibrato, emotive range and rafter-shaking power.

Groban pulled a large portion of songs from his latest CD, “Awake, ” as his tight, eight-piece backing band weaved comfortably between classical instrumentation and pop styles. A local orchestra section twice that size — mostly strings — added heft and texture.

A Groban concert isn’t for everyone — like, say, men who watch the NFL Network daily. The backdrop videos occasionally bordered on comedic, displaying New Age imagery such as candles floating to sea or drifting dandelion seeds.

The beauty is that the self- effacing Groban is keenly aware of his image. He knows he’s a dork-hunk. And he knows some of his music is, as he put it, “gag-me-with-a-spoon romantic.”

“As a guy, I just happen to be a cheeseball about that stuff, ” Groban explained sheepishly.

Who could blame him for grinning? Hundreds, if not thousands, of women were shrieking their support.

Groban is a multi-talent. After sitting down to play a piano that levitated from below the stage, he delivered “February Song, ” a crushing power ballad that allowed him to showcase his falsetto. Goofing off between songs, he showed beatbox ability while imitating a rave party’s techno beat. (“Countdown to career over, ” he joked afterward.) Late in the show, Groban even played prog-sounding synth and drums.

Groban wasn’t afraid to share the spotlight, either. Midway through the 19-song set, his petite violinist, Lucia Micarelli, began playing in an arena so quiet that the air conditioning sounded like a hurricane. Barefoot and on tiptoes, she seemed to explode with fluid notes.

Then the song truly erupted — into a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” (Which would have been infinitely cooler if Groban had sung a few bars.)

Amazingly, the entire audience managed to stay seated as this occurred. Frankly, it was impressive how much this crowd did not rock.

That changed later. It wasn’t when Kidjo, who had opened the evening with a rug-cutting set of world-infused music, came out to duet with Groban on “Pearls.”

It wasn’t even when Groban performed two South African-influenced songs — “Lullaby, ” using a vocoder to multiply his voice, and “Weeping, ” a funky, bass-popping tune that enticed maybe 20 percent of the audience to clap.

It was after that –15 songs into the show — that young women and children stormed the stage for autographs and hand touches. Smiling, Groban sat at the edge and sang Stephen Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around, ” a tune that honestly revealed his passion — and gift — for theater.

Snapping cellphone photos, fans stood at the front while Groban finished the night with an encore highlighted by a ripping rendition of his inspirational smash, “You Raise Me Up.” (Did I mention dude can flippin’ sing?)

Big-voiced yet between-song silly, Groban was pretty much … excellent. Besides, as he pointed out halfway through the show, romantic music can benefit everyone — women immediately, and their men … when they get home.

“If it works, fellas, thanks for coming, ” Groban said with a chuckle. “Have a wonderful night.”

Michael Deeds: 377-6407

Michael Deeds is the Idaho Statesman’s entertainment columnist and Scene magazine editor. His column runs Fridays and Sundays. He appears on the 6 p.m. broadcast of "Today's 6 News" on Thursdays and hosts a music show, "The Other Studio," from 9-10 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.

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