I may not be a Grobanite, but I’m a fan

Josh Groban

When I was asked to review the Josh Groban concert in Minneapolis, my first thought was honestly “popera.” I’ve always thought Josh Groban is extremely talented (both vocally and instrumentally) but being a self-proclaimed hipster musically, I may have turned my nose up a bit to his work.

I was able to delve deeper into his music over the past week and began to have a much greater respect for him. That admiration increased all the more seeing him perform live.

I read an article recently that I think really portrays his humility and addresses the genre confusion. Here’s an excerpt:

“But some misunderstanding about the genre is understandable,” Groban adds generously. “It’s kind of a new thing,” he says. “I’ve been put in this position where I’m paving my own road.”

If there must be a label for it, Groban prefers “traditional pop.”

“The pop music of yesteryear was more open-throated and was more full-voiced and did include vibrato,” he says. “I think we’re so used to voices so compressed within an inch of their lives now that when anything feels like a full-throated, open-sung song, people say, ‘Omigod, that must be opera.’”*

I see where Josh is coming from on this. As an amateur singer/songwriter, my vocal style has elements similar to Groban in vibrato and “full-voiced” singing, as he puts it. I really admire Groban for being able to pull from multiple influences spanning many genres, but remaining true to himself and not “selling out” for a watered-down form of his unique style. Even if this means less record sales in the long run, I’m confident the Grobanites will ensure Josh has no problem putting bread on the table for the rest of his career.

Speaking of Grobanites, they came out of the woodwork when I tweeted about my upcoming review! I was able to observe his loyal fans in person and they spanned from young teenage girls to grandmas and everything in between. Groban even joked at the concert, “I see a lot of men in the audience…that’s good. Maybe you were dragged here by your wife, your girlfriend….your grandma.” He’s definitely a charmer and a fantastic performer. I’m confident he kept everyone entertained throughout the show. Even the men.

Groban covered songs from a diverse collection of artists, including Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Webb, and Don McLean; not to mention the traditional songs like She Moved Through the Fair. He introduced the traditional Irish song saying, “I want to sing this at my wedding someday.” Girls screamed out in the crowd. He pointed toward the screaming, saying, “I’m gonna marry you girl.” And followed up with, “This is the Bieber moment of the show.”

As if his golden voice wasn’t enough to wow the crowd, Josh portrayed his musical versatility on the piano and even on the drums.

This was all magnified by Groban’s amazing band. Each member was a master of their instrument. I was particularly impressed with the band’s instrumental rendition of Aerosmith’s Dream On, featuring a fantastic violin solo by Christian Hebel. Groban’s music director and guitarist, Tariq Akoni, was also a highlight for me.

I was also very impressed with the opening act, Judith Hill. Hill’s powerful voice is full of soul and her original songs were heartfelt and well-written. My favorite moment in her act was her opening medley on the piano including songs like Feeling Good, I’ll Be There and You’ve Got A Friend. Her duets with Groban (Particularly The Prayer) were beautiful.

Listening to Josh Groban’s albums pales in comparison to seeing him and his band perform live. It was a great experience musically and Groban’s antics and comments between songs created a fun atmosphere. He shared that he wrote and recorded most of his Illuminations album here in Minneapolis with Dan Wilson (Adele, James Morrison, Weezer, Jason Mraz, and many, many more) which was a very interesting, fun fact.

If you get a chance to see him live next time he comes through town, I recommend it.

Share your comments below!

*http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/music/why-you-shouldnt-call-josh-groban-an-opera-singer/article9119210/

The Chieftains – Voice of Ages

The Chieftains

The Chieftains are probably the biggest name in traditional Irish music and have stayed true to this style for over 50 years.

The Chieftains’ new album, Voice of Ages, features some fantastic guest artists such as: Bon Iver, The Civil Wars, Lisa Hannigan, Punch Brothers, The Decemberists and more. These artists lend their sweet melodies and harmonies to The Chieftains traditional Irish folk style. My wife came home from work the other day while I was listening to the album and she said, “I feel like I just walked into an Irish festival or something.” That is a great way of describing a lot of The Chieftains music.

You can listen to the entire album on The Chieftains website: http://www.thechieftains.com/

As much as I love everything from Bon Iver, The Civil Wars and Punch Brothers, my favorite guest artist on this album is Lisa Hannigan. She sings a beautifully sad Celtic song called My Lagan Love.

You may recognize Lisa Hannigan from her collaborations with Damien Rice (9 Crimes, The Blower’s Daughter, Cold Water.) She has an incredible, soft, yet strong and beautiful voice and it’s perfect for this type of music. I can imagine this song being played over a somber battle scene in slow motion; snow falling in the foreground, no sound but the music as we see warriors shout their battle cries.

Where Lagan stream sings lullaby
There blows a lily fair
The twilight gleam is in her eye
The night is on her hair
And like a love-sick lennan-shee
She has my heart in thrall
Nor life I owe nor liberty
For love is lord of all.

And often when the beetle’s horn
Hath lulled the eve to sleep
I steal unto her shieling lorn
And thru the dooring peep.
There on the cricket’s singing stone,
She spares the bogwood fire,
And hums in sad sweet undertone
The songs of heart’s desire

Where Lagan stream sings lullaby
There blows a lily fair
The twilight gleam is in her eye
The night is on her hair
And like a love-sick lennan-shee
She has my heart in thrall
Nor life I owe nor liberty
For love is lord of all.

Some of my other favorites from the album: