Josh Groban seems to have hit his stride with his latest album Bridges. Uplifting melodies and covers of pop standards have created another recording that is more than worthy of the experience he provided for fans at his recent concert at Wolf Trap as part of his 2019 Bridges tour.
After his run as Pierre in Broadway’s War and Peace adaptation Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, his return to a solo career seems injected with a fresh enthusiasm. Wolf Trap is the perfect venue for Groban in a lot of ways, despite the sweltering summer heat. He opened the show with with “Bigger Than Us” from his most recent album, proving that Wolf Trap’s acoustics are a good match for Groban’s soaring and emotional vocals.
Josh Groban has a natural stage presence – in the way that many with a background in theater do. His banter is charming, but not a distraction from the fact that he is there to entertain. Groban draws his audience from many demographics. Being a theater nerd myself, I particularly enjoyed his renditions of “Bring Him Home” and “Pure Imagination.” Each was delivered with the passion of someone with an undeniable love and appreciation of the source material.
Groban certainly doesn’t disappoint when singing popular standards. The skills of his music director and guitarist, Tariqh Akoni, were highlighted in Groban’s gentle rendition of Don Mclean’s “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night),” which was pulled from his first self-titled album. This song allowed Groban to marry vocal power with tenderness, as did his emotional performance of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Songs which originated on Josh Groban’s albums were also a hit: “February Song” and “River” stood out among this subgroup. “River” was uniquely powerful following his explanation that the lyrics stemmed from his desire to give voice to mental health issues such as depression. Groban’s introductions to his songs help to give the audience context and personalize his performance.
Josh Groban’s career grew in the wake of his successful 2003 hit “You Raise Me Up.” For this somewhat spiritual number, Groban was joined on stage by a full choir in addition to the Wolf Trap’s in-house musicians and his own traveling band. The sheer amount of backing vocalists and musicians required to support Josh Groban’s iconic voice is impressive. These supporting artists were very much integral to the more musically bombastic numbers such as “Don’t Give Up.”
I can’t really imagine what type of person wouldn’t want to see Josh Groban live. His music has broad appeal and is thoroughly enjoyable in every way. After having first seen him on stage in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, this concert cements my opinion of him as one of the greatest showmen of all time.
Josh Groban was live in concert on July 7, 2019, at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts—1551 Trap Road, Vienna, Virginia. Tickets for future performances at Wolf Trap can be purchased online.