Album Review: Josh Groban, “Josh Groban: Live At The Greek” (2004)

Thank God for PBS. Yes, they’re an amazing non-profit public broadcasting service that airs free educational programming all over the United States, but more importantly, they have once again provided me with a Josh Groban CD/DVD combo.

To end his summer tour (promoting his sophomore album, Closer), Groban stopped at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, and PBS came along to tape the final show and then presented the show on a two disc CD & DVD, Josh Groban: Live At The Greek. Like Groban’s other CD/DVD, (Josh Groban In Concert) the show originally aired on PBS before being released to stores.

Again, the $30 retail price might put off fans, but make sure to check on Ebay- I got mine for a mere ten dollars!

The CD
You can immediately tell the difference in this tour and the first one when the CD begins; there’s a full thirty seconds of loud cheering and applause before the opening song even begins. Groban’s fan base hasgrown a lot in the past years, and the turnout for this show is proof.

Anyway, Groban and his band start off with Oceano (which also opens Closer). Another thing you can immediately notice is that Josh’s voice sounds very strained. Unlike the first PBS concert, Groban’s vocals in the live tracks don’t sound as clear as they do on the album. Groban’s vocals sound very nasal and strained, and at times it seems as though he’s reaching really hard to hit some of the notes. It could have to do with the fact that the show was the final stop on the tour and his vocal chords had taken a beating, but it’s especially obvious on the CD portion (without the accompanying performance as a distraction).

You may recall that one of my favorite songs from Closer was Mi Mancherai (Il Postino). Groban performs the song live during the concert, and though he seems to be straining the most here, Lucia Micarelli (more on her later) does a beautiful job on the violin.

Other songs included on the CD are Mi Morena, Canto Alla Vita, Remember When It Rained, Remember, America, and Never Let Go.

“Josh Groban @ McCallum Theater” by Mike Fabio. License at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.

The DVD
Finally, what I’d truly been waiting for. The DVD starts off with wide shots of the massive crowd. The arena is filled with tons of fans waving signs and glow sticks- the show is obviously a lot less intimate than the first tour.

This time around, the stage is a lot bigger, with the orchestra and the band backing Groban, and three large video screens in the background. Groban starts off the concert in the traditional suit and tie, though changes into jeans and a sweater towards the middle of the show.

Though Oceano starts the show off with a bang, things slow down with Per Te. Pianist Zachary Provost does an amazing job, and Groban’s vocals seem a bit more relaxed during this piece. Mi Morena, a previously unreleased track (only included on the special edition of Closer), brings guitarist Tariqh Akoni to the front of the stage with some beautiful Spanish guitar. The mid-tempo piece allows Groban to just sit beside Akoni and sing, which works well.

Canto Alla Vita is back, though this time without Andrea Corr. The song has mostly the same treatment as it did on the last tour, though Corr’s verses are missing, and Groban actually runs to the back of the stage during an instrumental section to play the drums.

Following Groban’s drum solo is another solo, from the aforementioned violinist Lucia Micarelli. Micarelli, who just joined Groban’s band during the Closer tour, has recently released a solo album (Music From A Farther Room), and after seeing her performance on the DVD, it’s easy to see that’s she’s truly talented. She walks on stage barefoot; wearing a beautiful green gown and holding her violin. She starts off performing a slow Nocturne, before segueing into a flawless rendition of Queen’s classic, Bohemian Rhapsody, and then ending with the same haunting nocturne. Her performance is absolutely beautiful; she’s quite a talented violinist, and it’ll be great to see her working with Groban in the future.

The show turns back to Groban with My December, another unreleased track, that happens to be a cover of a Linkin’ Park song. I’ve found that I enjoy Groban’s version better; the string section gives the piece a dramatic and dreamlike feel, and paired with Groban’s vocals make for a stunning song. The screens in the background get put to use during this track; as Groban sings, images of a snowy forest accompany him.

Of course, a Josh Groban concert wouldn’t be a Josh Groban concert without everyone’s favorite songs. In addition to the unreleased tracks, Groban also performs To Where You Are, Alejate, Vincent, Remember When It Rained, and is even accompanied with a local high school choir for You Raise Me Up. He also performs the soaring ballad that was featured in Troy, Remember, and a performance ofBelieve, which was on the soundtrack for the children’s movie, The Polar Express, is included on the DVD’s extras.

The concert comes to a close with two of the best performances. The first of the two starts off with Groban sitting at the piano. He introduces the song as something he just tried out on a whim, and soon we are visited by the opening chords of Paul Simon’s famous song, America. Groban’s vocals seem to have finally warmed up by this song, which is a bit sad since it’s the end of the concert. Anyway, the performance is very mellow and subdued, and the camera mostly focuses on Groban playing the piano and singing. This is truly one of the highlights of the show.

Groban’s finale is the track the closes Closer, Never Let Go. Groban’s vocals continue to sound nice during the performance, and Akoni, Micarelli, and Provost all join him back on stage for the final song. Groban interacts more with the audience (though he banters with them a lot throughout the show) during this performance and makes eye contact with the lucky people in the front row. The song ends with a flourish, and Groban jumps around and waves to his fans before leaving the stage.

One thing that’s better about this CD/DVD combo are the extras included on the DVD. As I mentioned already, a performance of Believe is included, but also included is the featurette, On The Road With Josh. Better than both of the Extras on the Live In Concert DVD, this featurette includes backstage footage and interviews with Groban himself, and his band mates. The behind the scenes footage is great- we get candid video of rehearsals, the band members goofing off, Groban joining in on the silliness and (poorly) playing golf, and all kinds of other fun things that fellow Grobanites should enjoy.

Josh Groban: Live At The Greek is a nice addition to any Josh Groban fans’ collection. Though Groban’s vocals seem a bit strained, there is still no denying his talent.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing
CD
1. Oceano
2. Mi Mancherai (Il Postino)
3. Mi Morena
4. Canto Alla Vita
5. Remember When It Rained
6. Remember
7. America
8. Never Let Go

DVD
1. Oceano
2. Per Te
3. To Where You Are
4. Mi Mancherai (Il Postino)
5. Mi Morena
6. Alejate
7. Canto Alla Vita
8. Nocturne/Bohemian Rhapsody
9. Alla Luce del Sole
10. My December
11. Caruso
12. Remember When It Rained
13. Vincent
14. Remember
15. You Raise Me Up
16. America
17. Never Let Go

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