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August 26, 2007

Josh Groban at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. August 25, 2007

After being told that I was set to cover the Josh Groban Awake tour on Saturday night, I couldn't wait. I told one of our bosses that I wouldn't miss the show for the world. I drove down to "The OC" (omg, hi Ryan and Marissa! Love your Dior sunglasses! And Ryan, your Hanes tank top is nice as well...), only to discover that neither ticket, nor press pass were awaiting me at the venue. While I did finagle my way into the press parking lot free of charge (I am getting way too good at bending the truth), somewhere along the joys of an email chain, I got lost in the shuffle. I was no longer "Dave Chung - Billboard blogger," I was just some guy who liked driving to arenas on a Saturday night. Regardless of disappointment and illness (so many boogies...), I knew I had to live up to my word and get in.


After an embarrassing exchange with the venue manager and a $99.00 swipe on my Visa, I found myself four rows from the stage. As Mobile Beat bloggers, we'll inevitably have days where things don't go our way. However, if you are financially irresponsible and stubborn, you can still make things happen. People say that money isn't everything, but clearly, Saturday proved that credit cards can go a long way. It was going to take a lot of Senor Groban to make me forget about the eventful hour that preceded the show, but with his unbelievable vocals, breathtaking arrangements (really, I'm not being overly dramatic), and unexpected humorous moments, I will have no gripes about paying off this ticket next month.

Opening up the show was an artist by the name of Angelique Kidjo. Kidjo, along with an internationally diverse band, played African-inspired tunes with a funky reggae feel. While I couldn't understand a single word in many of the songs and will not even begin to pretend that I knew what language it was, it was a very unique sound that was unlike anything I had seen this summer, which is something that gets tougher and tougher to accomplish as this summer nears its conclusion.


If you asked me what I never thought I would have seen at a Josh Groban concert, I would have replied "A guy with a head full of dreadlocks going off on the bongos and hitting a bass drum that looked like a dinosaur egg." If that was my answer, I would have been horribly wrong because the band's percussionist was putting on a percussion party. At this point, it wouldn't have shocked me if Baby Bop popped out of his egg-looking bass drum at by the end of the performance. The band covered a Rolling Stone track and made it sound like Gloria Estefan's "Conga," and even got the primarily middle aged female audience to perform an African chant during the chorus to one of their songs! They got everyone on their feet and dancing to the music, something that I never would have expected at a Josh Groban show (the dancing, standing is ok).


As the curtains went up, the unmistakable sounds of Groban's classical/pop styled baritone vocals filled the arena with "You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)," the first single off his album "Awake."


The curtain revealed a full strings section, unique lighting suspended above the stage, a colorful projector powered backdrop, and of course, Groban's band. Let me just say that the women were going absolutely crazy. Not since The Fray concert earlier this summer had I seen women "actin' a fool" (in a good way) like they were for the outset of the night spent with Groban. From the first note, I was already happy that I decided not to "give up" (omg, it was like Josh was singing TO ME!!!!) on this night because it was obvious that I was in for an unreal show. I'm going to refrain from commenting too much about his vocals much during this write up, simply because we all know what to expect from Josh Groban by this point - smooth, pitch-perfect vocals that can hit some very, very, very big notes in English, Spanish, or Italian. Let's just say that they were unreal good all night and that the early cheers were well-deserved.


One of my favorite performances on the night came early, in "Un Dia Llegara," a dramatic track that was really well-arranged for the live concert. Not only did I enjoy the song because I can actually understand most of it (compared to his Italian songs where I just blabber on melodically to what I think he is saying phonetically, despite the fact that I could potentially be singing about ordering Chinese food or whining about how much I want to get laser hair removal for all I know), but the sounds of a single Spanish acoustic guitar drove the song's instrumentals and Groban's voice complimented the dramatic arrangement perfectly.


While Groban is well known for his big notes, he has so many levels and dimensions to his voice that are truly a treat to hear live. With "Llegara," Groban reduced some in the audience to tears and I'm not going to lie, I got kind of close! But then I manned up, thought about preseason NFL football, Gold Bond body powder for men's nether regions, and High School Musical (What team?!?! WILDCATS!!! WHAT TEAM?!?! WILDCATS!!! ...Can't get that out of my head for some reason...), and I was good.


With "Now or Never" and "So She Dances," Groban did what few performers can pull off at a huge venue, "just sing" and have people be completely engaged with the performance. Groban simply sat on a stool and walked around the orchestra casually for each performance respectively, but the arena was completely silent as everyone in attendance was fully engaged with both performances.


Another one of the top performances of the night came in "February Song," where Groban took a seat at the piano and utilized his rarely heard falsetto on the chorus. With a strong electric guitar line accompanying the full strings section, it was unreal to hear the song live.


Something that most people who haven't attended a Josh Groban show before wouldn't know is that he's actually a pretty hilarious guy when he has a chance to interact with the crowd. From singing a couple bars from Justin Timberlake's "D*ck in a Box" (if the audience was skewed a little younger, this would have been a lot funnier for everyone), to his self deprecating humor about how overly romantic many of his songs are, Groban really embraces his niche in the music world and has fun with it. At one point, Groban sat at the piano and performed portions of Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive," Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," and even Rihanna's "Umbrella" to the delight of the crowd. He joked around with fans who brought him a cowboy hat, handcuffs, and even a giant fortune cookie, in such a genuine and personal way that it was a welcome break in the dramatic performances to see that the man behind "the voice" is actually just a regular guy, who can poke fun at himself and doesn't mind taking a seat on stage to sign autographs for fans.


While we'd think that a Josh Groban show would just be filled with mellow music that makes you want to make love with (see, I said "with," not "to," because I am a gentleman) your woman in the back of your Phantom (or take a nap with your stuffed animal dogs named Carrie [Underdog] and Lauren [LC - "Little Corgi"] in the back of your Scion xA, in my case), there are moments when the Awake tour proves us wrong. From Lucia Micarelli just rocking out on the violin to cover Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" (to me, this is Diddy's "Come With Me," which I think makes a lot of people want to throw up, but it makes me think of Diddy singing away with Godzilla in the backdrop) to Groban getting a dancing lesson from opening act Angelique Kidjo (I really respect Josh Groban after this show, but he sucks at dancing), to seeing Groban just get down on the drumset (it was really effing good), to learning about the charitable work that Groban has been doing through his foundation, there's a lot to like other than just the music at a Josh Groban concert.


During "In Her Eyes," Groban weaved in and out of a crowd of waving paper hearts that were distributed to us earlier in the night (God bless the hands that cut the thousands of rough edged hearts, as this is something that wouldn't shock me if I was asked to do a similar task one day at work). Taking it back to Groban's CD "Closer," "Remember When It Rained" was a memorable performance as the "Runninggggg dowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!" part literally gave me chills to hear it live (if you've heard the song, that makes sense. If you haven't, it looks like I fell asleep with my face on the keyboard). One of the most unique performances was "Lullaby," a song that Groban wrote with Dave Matthews, because Groban utilized a voice machine that multiplied his voice and allowed him to harmonize with himself through the machine. Five Josh Groban voices working in unison when one voice was enough to engage a huge arena made for a truly special performance.


Groban closed out the show with "You Raise Me Up," before performing "Awake," which is just a beautiful ballad that has a great piano arrangement that leads into the song's big chorus, for the obligatory encore. All in attendance gave Groban a standing ovation and I had a feeling that no one had to be coaxed into getting on his or her feet to applaud the incredible performances we witnessed all night.


If you're not a Josh Groban fan, his concert won't win you over if his style of music isn't your thing (as is the case with any performer, I feel like). However, even if you like just one of Groban's songs, or liked a sample of a song that you overheard, or if you're already a fan, a Josh Groban concert would be one of the most enjoyable concerts you'd ever attend. While I would have loved to have seen Groban perform "Si Volvieras A Mi" or "Mi Mancherai" from the "Closer" album, I left with few "wants," because of all the "haves." Despite the fact that Groban now performs at huge venues, his style of music and ability to be an equal opportunity performer to all parts of the crowd makes any seat in the house a great seat to take in his show. Groban knows who he is as a performer and delivers on what everyone wants to see (big vocals) and more (lots of fun). With the most spot-on vocals I've heard all summer, a lot of lighthearted laughs, and a few surprises along the way, Josh Groban's Awake tour on Saturday turned my night around. Despite my unexpected obstacles to get into the show, Groban put on a show that I would be happy to pay to see again.

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Claudia Blanton

Thank you for this wonderful report of Josh's concert. I am a Grobanite (no, not a disease, just a passionate fan), and it is always great to hear from someone, who is not as familiar with the singer. By the way "Awake" is his third album, "Josh Groban" and "Closer" are the other two, and there will be a Christmas Album released in the very near future (rumor has it October, with the possible title "Noel".
Great pictures!


This is the best review anyone could have written, well done! I'm not made of money but I've paid to see Josh Groban in concert four times (three occasions on the Awake tour). He is simply amazing, and thank you for writing such a great review.


I thought you did like driving to arenas every saturday night


Wow Dave... that is really sweet. Let me know next time you hit up such good parties!


Man, this is definitely one of my favorite reviews you have written. Such composure to write such an honest review despite getting D'd over and not in a good way. Love the part about "with not to"...definitely adding that one to the playbook. HAHA super funny as always, loved the part about Goldbond, (thanks for introducing me to it also)I'm looking up the song Un Dia llegara because I feel like crying at work. You're an ACE at your job.


I'm so glad you didn't have to trek back home without watching the concert. He's such an amazing musician! Definitely agree that Josh Groban knows who he is as a performer and that authenticity comes out in his performance. He gives me the chills when I see his performance on TV, so it must've been an amazing experience to watch him perform live.


I have to agree, your review is wonderful. It's hard to explain to people who haven't seen Josh live just how incredible he is - seeing him live is life changing. I've seen Josh twice on this tour so far and I'm flying to Omaha (from Texas) to see him this Friday. It's well worth the money to see him again! I hope you'll continue to review his shows.


Thank you for this amazing review! You captured a Josh concert perfectly: his indescribable voice and equally fabulous personality. I love hearing how he leaves such strong impressions on those who aren't his dedicated, loyal fan base. You couldn't have written a better review..hopefully this will cause people to check him out who haven't yet. (Love your pics, too!)


You're a terrific writer, Dave. You did a wonderful job of covering Josh's concert. No cheap shots from you, as so many reviewers seem compelled to do, especially if they're male. I could feel your sense of awe and enthusiasm about what you were witnessing on stage. You "get" him--and his fans! And I love your sense of humor throughout! It was a pleasure to read your review (much better than some of your peers' reviews I checked out). Please urge billboard to keep covering Josh Groban, one of the most genuine and talented artists around.


Would you believe it, I was right up against the stage directly in front of the drums during his solo and I got the first one that he threw out to the crowd! Other people latched onto it but I refused to let go and I talked two other people out of it. I call myself a proud Grobanite and this was my third Josh concert in the past week and 4th overall since March. I also helped to distribute those hearts. Josh's fans are truly amazing people and he is simply the best.


Wow, Dave! Fabulous review. I'm a long-time Josh fan and it always amazes me when people don't "get" Josh.....his gorgeous voice, sweet personality, goofy sense of humour and genuine musical talent (piano, drums, AND voice) are SO obvious and wonderful....how could anyone doubt them? You captured the spirit of a Josh concert, made me laugh out loud, and REALLY made me wish I'd be seeing a concert soon....I've seen him 12 or 13 times already since 2003 and he just keeps getting better!! The Christmas album is going to be a total stunner!! (And I mean that in a really GOOD way!)


i want to know which gift you brought for JG, the handcuffs? cowboy hat? fortune cookie? Im proud of you for being a true mobil beat blogger, not many people i know would shell out $100 american dollars to go to work!


What a wonderful review. I was one of the many dedicated fans that helped cut out those 18,000 hearts. Unfortunately, I was without a camera. Any chance you could send me some of your wonderful pictures? Great report. Glad you enjoyed the show.


great review. really nice pics. sounds like you had another great time, besides having to pay for the ticket =(.

B to the Laow

Nice review! your writing is sparkling with some classic wit... blaow says the man in white. keep up the rain like PacMan, and remember: not guilty till proven guilty.

you my man

Nati G.



David Chung is on FIREEEE!!!!


Dear Dave,

It's so great to hear a guy give a review like that. I believe that Josh is an incredible performer with a heart of gold and that's why I love him so much. I'm glad that you made reference to his caritable work as well as his aweinspiring talent. Your review rocks!!


Loved your review! We were there and of course thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for mentioning the charitable work. 87 kids in south central LA went off to college this month with dorm outfittings courtesy of Josh and his fans!! And Josh's foundation underwrote some of their scholarships as well. He inspires us! In this town, where many reviewers are blase or worse - snide, you are a breath of fresh air.

Judy Thorne

Thank you for your wonderful review of Josh's concert. You really do have to see it to believe it - and thankfully your negative experience at the beginning still became one of deight. Now that we've heard that the show was recorded in Utah, it might give those who didn't get to see it this time a second chance!


Sorry about the typo...that was supposed to be charitable not caritable.


"However, if you are financially irresponsible and stubborn, you can still make things happen"

Funny, I live my life by that statement.

GREAT review, the show sounds just as unbelievable as the one I saw, and I'm glad you kept your promise to not miss it for the world. Nice work once again, Dave!


This truly was one of the most complimentary reviews I have read. But how could anyone post otherwise?? Yes, Josh is really something special, and we Grobanites, (so proud to be counted among them) know a great thing when we see and hear one!! Josh has not only opened up unbelievable avenues in music, but he has helped create this universe of Grobania, where thousands of us have met wonderful new friends around the world. For that, and all the extra obvious bonuses, I am grateful! Somehow, we always find a way to get in to see this most talented marvel "DO HIS STUFF" ! Thanks again, Dave!


cool pictures!!! ha


Wow, I just love your site, it's so informative, although it looks like you got a side seat cause all the pictures are from the left side. lol. :)

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