Go into any record store and you might find Josh Groban's albums listed under pop/rock or classical. Yesterday, I also found them in the easy-listening section of one outlet. This confusion may baffle the sales clerks, but it illustrates the crossover phenomenon that has helped Groban sell millions of records in the past two years.
His hard-to-define persona also extends to the stage, yet he appears to revel in it. The young Groban had a grand time at the sold-out Wang Theatre , where he sang songs in English, Spanish, and Italian. He changed from a suit in the first set to bluejeans in the second. He playfully unveiled big-budget lighting and video effects worthy of a rock concert or a Broadway show. And he fronted his own six-piece band and a 14-piece string section, hired locally, that enacted the sometimes overblown arrangements of his songs, but that also brought out the innate sensitivity of a prodigy who has come into his own.
Other critics have knocked Groban for an awkward stage presence, but he was affable and at ease last night. He said he felt he was playing for "family and friends." The crowd loved his innocent, boyish-star quality, whether it was on epic opener "Oceano" (with Groban at the top of some stairs with a video of waves crashing around him) or his inspiring "You Raise Me Up," which he sang at the Super Bowl. He sang with precision and with an open-the-tear-duct emotion, especially on "Broken Vow," Don McLean's "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)," and a piquant cover of Linkin Park's "My December."
Some electronic backing tapes aided the concert, but Groban still deserved his standing ovation, as did tour violinist Lucia Micarelli, who even did a touch of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" to further mix the genres.
(Josh Groban, at the Wang Theatre, last night.)