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!


The Pines – Be There In Bells

I don’t know what it is about March that attracts me to the kind of music I’ve been sharing lately. I think it is the grayness. Everything in March is gray – the white snow has turned to a gray slush, the sky is constantly cloudy, the trees haven’t budded yet and they are just plain weary of winter, even my chickens’ eggs have been grayer than usual. It’s just plain dreary out and dreary weather apparently makes me want to listen to grainy, subdued local indie folk. (Of course, it could also just be that I like this kind of music, but I’ll continue to blame it on the weather.) However, while dreary weather might be conducive to listening to Minneapolis based band The Pines, it in no way describes their music. With course, echoey, sometimes Dylan-esque, vocals reminiscent of a creaking forests, regional lyrics like “All the sorrow and the cold north wind”, and a panoply of muted instrumentals that accompany the singers like a slow drizzle, one could only describe The Pines’ music as … ah, dreary. But I mean that in the best possible way. After all, who doesn’t love a Minnesota March? (Or is that only me?)

Originally I was going to post The Pines’ song All The While because it seems to be more well known, but then I thought, “That is no reason to play a song” so I decided to pick out my favorite – Be There In Bells. It is fairly representative of the other music I’ve explored from this band and should remind you of Wake Owl and Great Lake Swimmers. However, it is by no means a mirror of those bands and is further proof that Minnesota puts out great music.

If you want to see them live, they will be at the Hopkins Center for the Arts on March 26th, First Ave. on April 18th with Trampled by Turtles (ought to be a great show), and at the Mid West Music Festival in Winona April 19th – so plenty of chances to check them out.

Be There In Bells

Late at night, watching the satellites
North Carolina and the rolling hills

Orion, draws back the arrow
Aiming at the heart of a scarecrow

Cloud to cloud, hour to hour
Dust to dust, flower to flower
I close my eyes, so I might dream
Won’t you meet me,
When the Sun stands still?
And I will, be there in bells

I thought I was in love once, I don’t know
I was over dressed and scared to be alone

The pain is there, for to protect
If it didn’t hurt then we’d all bleed to death

Black to black, reel to reel,
Heart to heart, shield to shield
I close my eyes, so I might dream
Won’t you meet me,
When the Sun stands still?
And I will, be there in bells

The Great Spirit rose over ol’ St. Paul
You are forever forgiven and all

I fell asleep and woke up in the sky
There was a light so bright, I could see through my skin
All the sorrow and the cold north wind
I had to go through
I had to find you

Dollar to dollar, broke to broke,
Ash to ash, smoke to smoke
I close my eyes, so I might dream
Won’t you meet me,
When the Sun stands still?
And I will, be there in bells
I will be there in bells

John Mark Nelson – The Moon and Stars


After a relatively unknown debut album, 19 year old Minneapolis local John Mark Nelson started to make ripples in the Twin Cities music scene with his sophomore album Waiting and Waiting released last August. Somehow managing to bring a unique sound to that folk singer/songwriter genre, a genre where typically one artist sounds much like another, John Mark Nelson quickly rose to the top my folk playlists when I first heard his music. Waiting and Waiting is a great collection of mellow tunes with a surprising amount of melodic diversity. Thanks in a large part to our favorite local MPR stations, The Current, John Mark Nelson is finally reaching an audience beyond just the young Minneapolitans who closely follow our local music treasures. Having just successfully raised money for a new album through a Kickstarter project, we look forward to see how his music will continue to develop.

Originally I was going to feature the song “Rain Comes Down” off of Nelson’s new album, but I wanted to post a video and currently the only one I could get my hands on was a track called “The Moon and Stars,” a single from the new project I just mentioned. I am actually quite happy about this because it not only gives a glimpse of  where he is going, but I think I actually like this song more than the one I was originally going to play. So enjoy, check out his Facebook page, and see him live on March 2nd at the Icehouse here in Minneapolis.

As always, let us know what you think.