The gracious, operatic pop singer unfurled a wide-ranging set for fans in mid-June at a near-capacity Van Andel Arena. The review was the ninth most popular post at Local Spins in 2019.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Local Spins review of Josh Groban’s June 18 concert at Van Andel Arena drew a lot of readers, putting it at No. 9 on the year-end countdown of Local Spins’ most-read stories of the year.
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Josh Groban seems to have mastered the tricky art of making music that appeals to any age group.
During the nearly sold-out June 18 concert at Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena, it wasn’t uncommon to see groups of two or three generations together, all enjoying the show.
But that inter-generational attraction was far from the only thing that stood out on Tuesday.
Chris Botti and his band got the arena hopping early. A student of the great jazz masters, the Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and his band delivered an unforgettable set that included a ripping drum solo by percussionist Lee Pearson and one-of-a-kind vocalist Sy Smith crooning the Frank Sinatra classics “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning” and “Embraceable You.”
Josh Groban followed and wasted little time before expressing his heartfelt gratitude to the city of Grand Rapids.
“I love it here, ‘Pure Michigan,’ ” he told fans. “This is a very friendly city. Everywhere I went the people were so nice, the food was so good, and the beer was incredible, oh my God.”
Groban then proceeded to prove his affection by treating Grand Rapids to a unique set of songs during the West Michigan stop on his “Bridges” tour, a show saturated with personal touches.
Special moments including Groban performing a litany of “extra” songs, including a cover he’d never performed before in his career, Charles Aznavour’s “She,” and reintroducing his own “February Song” to the set simply because a fan at the pre-show meet-and-greet sported a tattoo of the lyrics.
AN ORCHESTRAL BOOST AND A SHOUT-OUT FOR ARTS EDUCATION
Groban, 38, got a boost at the show from a massive backing orchestra of Michigan musicians whose talent permeated the set — most truly felt on “Pure Imagination” and during an immense sweeping instrumental break in “Oceana.”
The operatic pop singer managed to make the sprawling arena seem intimate, bantering frequently with fans and talking openly about things near and dear to his heart: how to stay in love with someone, the conversation that needs to take place surrounding mental health, and keeping arts education in our schools so children can learn to express themselves.
That topic sparked the most touching moment of the night. Groban revealed that Van Andel Arena had made a significant donation to his Find Your Light Foundation, which is dedicated to ensuring that every child has access to a quality arts education.
“This is the first arena I’ve ever played at that’s done that for me,” he marveled. “A big shout out to my teachers, especially my arts education teachers because they were the first ones to give me my voice.”
He then was joined by an eight-person choir from the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit to perform “Granted” while a large video screen showed a montage of current students of the public arts high school that Groban attended as a teen.
“And also a big shout out to all the teachers here in Michigan,” Groban declared in yet another demonstration of his gracious demeanor. “You’ve got some great ones.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Josh Groban, Chris Botti at Van Andel Arena
Photos by Anthony Norkus