Album Review: Josh Groban, “Josh Groban In Concert” (2002)

What’s better than seeing your favorite musician live in concert? Seeing them live in concert from the comfort of your own home! That’s the case with this CD/DVD combo of Josh Groban in Concert.

Back in 2001, Josh performed a live concert for a special that aired on PBS. I actually remember watching the special; I was just flipping past PBS when I saw Josh on stage singing Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. It was pretty exciting to watch the special, and all month long I found myself turning to PBS just in case a rerun of the show was airing (And in most cases it was. PBS aired the show on almost a daily basis in order to raise money for their network and other various foundations).

As an avid Josh fan, owning the special CD/DVD package was a necessity. I looked at Wal-Mart and Target for the package, but was a bit put off by the almost $30 asking price. Finally, I surfed on over to my new favorite site, Ebay.com and purchased the an unopened copy of the CD/DVD (along with Josh Groban: Live at the Greek) for a mere $10 dollars each. So before you run out and buy this at the stores, check on Ebay (or even Half.com) for a better deal.

Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled with my purchase. The DVD includes the entire PBS special with bonus features that makes it well worth buying. But more on the DVD later…

The CD
Unfortunately, there are a lot of singers that don’t sound quite as good live as they do on their recordings. Luckily, this isn’t the case with Josh. The first thing you’ll notice while listening to the CD is that Josh sounds great live. He is genuinely very talented, and happens to be a great performer. In fact, with several of the songs on the album, you won’t even realize that it was recorded live until you’re greeted with the sounds of the audience applauding at the end.

Half of the songs on the album are ones that are also included on Josh’s self titled debut. Un Amore Per Sempre, Alejate, Vincent, and Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring have been included on this Live in Concert CD, as well, and they all sound as wonderful as their studio-recorded counterparts. Alejate is especially nice as Tariqh Akoni accompanies Josh with a Latin guitar.

The CD also includes two previously unreleased tracks, For Always and Oh Holy Night. While For Always is included on the DVD, we are only presented with the studio version of Oh Holy Night. As I’ve stated in several holiday album reviews, this happens to be my FAVORITE Christmas song and (no surprise here) Josh does it justice.

The track starts off with light orchestration before Josh comes in. His voice is very strong and powerful in this track, and by the time we get to the chorus, Josh’s vocal ability is fully showcased. Though Oh Holy Night is one of the most done holiday songs, Josh provides a sentimental and flawless rendition of it that you won’t easily forget.

The DVD
Now for the real treat. As I mentioned earlier, the concert was recorded for a PBS special in 2001. The DVD presents the special in whole, WITHOUT all those annoying interruptions for pledges and memberships for the PBS foundation. That in itself is a good enough reason to buy the DVD.

For the special, Josh is backed by a full orchestra, and is joined by several musical guests. Composer John Williams makes an appearance (ET, Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc) as well as David Foster (Who “discovered” Josh. He also had a major hand in producing his first album). Singers Angie Stone and Andrea Corr lend their vocals, and Lili Hayden plays violin for a few tracks.

The stage looks pretty simple, but as Josh starts the show with Alla Luce Del Sole, we are presented with his silhouette and other cool special effects projected on the huge screens placed on either side of the stage. I also have to admit that as I’m watching this DVD on my computer, I’m a bit shocked about how good the quality is! The stage looks even more impressive on my computer screen, which is weird…but I guess I can save that for another review, eh?

Josh performs most of the concert in a suit and then switches to a black and white sweater, both of which are very appropriate for the venue and material he is singing. The show starts off with stunning performances of You’re Still You and Vincent, which leads us to Gira Con Me Questa Notte.

Gira happens to be one of my favorite songs, and Josh performs it beautifully. He sings with just the right amount of emotion as he moves around the stage in front of the orchestra. Nice lighting effects give the performance even more of a beautiful feeling, and Zachary Provost does a wonderful job on the piano.

Another stand out performance is that of Broken Vow. This is our first glimpse of this ballad, though it was later included on Josh’s sophomore album, Closer. David Foster plays piano, and though the performance is very stripped down and basic, it works well.

The music for Cinema Paradiso (Se) starts up, and we are presented with the image of several old movie reels scattered about the stage. Now, I don’t know any Italian, but after reading a translation of this song, I know that none of it has anything to do with movies or cinema except the title (in fact, the words “Cinema Paridiso” are never present in the actual lyrics of the song). During an instrumental break in the song, Josh goes over and turns one of the reels around, and it’s cute and all, but really- the staging has absolutely nothing to do with a song that’s about loving someone.

For Always marks the appearance of John Williams. The song was actually used in the soundtrack for the movie, AI: Artificial Intelligence, which Williams obviously scored. This is another one of my favorite songs. Though the recording is actually a duet between Josh and singer, Lara Fabian, Josh is quite able to master the song alone. A harp is shown, which sounds lovely underneath Josh’s voice. The best thing about the performance is the way Josh delivers the song with such yearning and emotion. It’s a beautiful track, and it’s done perfectly on the special.

 Some rights reserved by goshesheCanto Alla Vita features Lili Hayden (who also performs on Jesu) and Andrea Corr. If you recall my review of the studio version, you’ll remember that I hate this song. However, as I stated in the same review, this live rendition is far better than the original recording. Josh sounds wonderful as usual, but Andrea sounds a lot better than she does on the CD (So maybe it’s the opposite with her? She seems to be a better live singer than a studio singer!). Josh and Andrea actually sound very good together, and their harmonies are very nice. It also helps that there are no annoying synthesizers in the background.
The DVD comes to an end with The Prayer and Let Me Fall. The Prayer is a song that Josh recorded with Charlotte Church, and though he sings it live with her on her Enchantment DVD special, Angie Stone fills her place for Live in Concert. Everyone seems to have mixed feelings on this duet. Though I’m a huge fan of Charlotte’s voice, I must admit that Angie gives the song some much needed soul. Sure, she can’t hit all the same high notes that Charlotte can, but she still does a fine job and I’d say that their duet was pulled off nicely.

Josh is called back for an encore, and he appears alone on stage to start singing Let Me Fall. This happens to be another one of my favorite songs, and I think the live version is even better than the one on the album. Josh’s voice sounds very relaxed and warmed up, which makes it even easier for him to hit every note perfectly. As the song goes on, the screens in the background light up to present a staircase. The best visual effect in the concert is during this song, as Josh appears to be slowly climbing up the “stairs” as the song progresses. The song comes to an end as he reaches the top of the stairs and sings, “Just let me fall”, before falling back into darkness.

If you’re looking for an explanation of that special effect, look no further than the bonus feature, Making of the Special. Here we are presented with a behind the scenes look of the concert, which includes interviews with David Foster, Josh’s band, and his parents. It runs about ten minutes long, and is fairly interesting. The fans will be excited to see a lot of candid footage of Josh performing and goofing around on and off stage.

A second bonus feature is Chris Groban’s Backstage Footage, which consists of raw backstage footage taken on Chris’ (Josh’s younger brother) camcorder. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed by this bonus feature. It only runs about 5 minutes, and most of the footage is of fans milling about, and shots of the floor of the auditorium. Yes, it really is that bad. Since Chris is Josh’s brother, I expected a lot of behind the scenes stuff of Josh and their family, but the feature is very amateurish and seems like something you’d reluctantly watch at a family get together after dinner. I hate to say this, but I’m not sure Chris has a future in film making 😦

All in all, Josh Groban in Concert is a great treat for fans of Josh and it proves that he is truly an amazing performer.

Rating: 5_stars.svg

Track Listing
CD
1. Un Amore Per Sempre
2. Alejate
3. The Prayer
4. For Always
5. Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)
6. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
7. Broken Vow
8. O Holy Night

DVD
Alla Luce Del Sole
You’re Still You
Vincent (Starry Starry Night)
Gira Con Me Questa Notte
Un Amore Per Sempre
Alejate
Broken Vow
To Where You Are
Cinema Paradiso
For Always
Home To Stay
Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring
Canto Alla Vita
The Prayer
Let Me Fall

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