Josh Groban performs in Kansas City as part of his “In The Round” tour.
Josh Groban performs in Kansas City as part of his “In The Round” tour.
October 22, 2013



KANSAS CITY

Josh Groban isn't a very good juggler - but he makes up for it with his Gollum impression.

He interrupted his set during the Kansas City stop of his "In the Round" tour last Wednesday with a question-and-answer session, responding to one audience member's request that he juggle with the balls she'd brought - after just seconds of keeping them in the air, he tossed them out to audience members - and another's invitation for him to impersonate the "Lord of the Rings" character.

As Groban hissed into the microphone, invoking a creepily good Gollum voice, he nabbed trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom's instrument, honking a triumphant note on it at the end of his act.

"Man, I'm sorry," he told Rosenboom as he returned the trumpet. "Now you have cooties."

The light-hearted asides melded perfectly with gorgeous music as Groban engaged thousands of audience members that evening during his "In the Round" tour that placed the stage in the center of the audience, keeping him surrounded during his set in each city.

I can't review this concert without disclosing my deep and abiding adoration for Josh Groban, which was started years ago by a basic appreciation for his inarguably incredible music and more recently has been fueled by his ability to be hilarious through 140-character tweets - one of which was once directed at me (be still, my heart).

Seriously, music and Twitter abilities are enough to win my heart.

I've seen Groban live once before, in my hometown of Cleveland, but this experience was vastly different. Instead of back-of-the-arena tickets, I sprung for a fourth-row seat this time around.

I sat next to a woman who, like me, had decided Groban was a good enough reason to attend a concert alone. We bonded over margaritas decorated with paper flamingos.

"This is the way to do it," she said as she sat down and saw how close our seats were. I would have responded if I hadn't been sobbing with joy.

Groban was preceded by Judith Hill, who has sung with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder and has competed on NBC's "The Voice," a reality singing show. She charmed the audience with a high-energy performance, tireless dancing and crystal-clear vocals.

She also joined Groban for renditions of "Remember When It Rained" and "The Prayer" - "I have a long history of singing this song with incredibly beautiful singers, and of course this singer is no exception," he said. His performance of that song with Celine Dion in 1999 helped launch his career.

Although I still would have been front and center at that show even if the opener was horrendous, I was ecstatic to hear that Hill would be filling the spot. I've been a huge fan of hers since I followed her on "The Voice."

Onstage for just under two hours, Groban never faltered musically. He jumped from songs on his new album, such as "Brave" and "False Alarms," to older favorites such as "Vincent," Don McLean's tribute to Vincent van Gogh, and "To Where You Are." Audible sighs from the audience followed his announcement of several favorites. For one song, he put down the microphone and played the drums.

He delivered with beautiful performances of the two songs he is perhaps best known for - "The Prayer" and "You Raise Me Up." He sang the latter as an encore, telling the audience, "This is a song, when you're recording an album and it walks in the door, you stop what you're doing and sing it."

Although most will say I already have, I truly can't say enough about how wonderful Groban's voice is. Throughout the show, and especially when he was paired with Hill's stunningly lovely voice, he gave me chills - and, you naysayers, a quick review of the audience showed I wasn't alone.

But in between the music, it was Groban's jokes that had the audience members still laughing when they walked out of Kansas City's Sprint Center.

He launched into a Justin Bieber impression several times without warning and complimented the men in the audience for allowing themselves to be dragged along - they'd scored major brownie points, he said.

Soon into the show, he joked about picketers outside the center.

"If I'm offensive, they've run out of people," he laughed. "They really have. It made me feel kind of badass."

He also put in a plug for his Find Your Light Foundation, which supports arts programs in schools - programs he's said he has seen change lives.

Although all of the musicians backing Groban were wonderful, including Kantorei, a chorale from Kansas City, as a violinist I was most drawn to Christian Hebel, Groban's impishly handsome violin player for the tour who pierced the room with his music. As Groban aptly said, Hebel was "melting your faces all night - and your hearts."

After his final song, Groban ran through the crowd, flanked by bodyguards and high-fiving those at the end of each row.

One older woman who received the coveted touch quickly turned and grabbed her friend's wrinkled hand, holding it between hers as they giggled.

"Now we both have him," she said.

It was an apt ending to the evening.