Josh Groban: No gimmicks, just unadulterated talent

STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco -

In one of his spiels at his Philippine International Convention Center concert last Wednesday, Josh Groban thanked the audience and made special mention of the significant others who watched just because they were dragged there out of curiosity.”

At that point, I wanted to stand up and thank him for acknowledging my presence because I was one of those who watched out of curiosity.

This may come as a shock to people of today’s generation, but prior to his two-night Manila concert last week, I was vaguely familiar with Josh Groban. In fact, I thought his last name was spelled Grobin (but pronounced Groban) — until I saw People Asia magazine with him on the cover and there it says: Josh Groban.

I am actually no music fan and the names and voices of foreign singers (especially the boy bands that I so detest) all sound the same to me. If ever I need to familiarize myself with a foreign singer or inquire about a song, I run to my good friend, The Philippine STAR columnist Baby Gil, a walking encyclopedia when it comes to music (local and foreign).

Now, if for some reason, I am unable to get in touch with Baby, I run to Ali Sotto, who will even sing the song for me. (Remember, before she became an accomplished actress, TV host and now respected broadcaster, she was first a singer?)

Two weeks ago, Ali called me up to ask if I had or at least knew where she could still get tickets to the concert of Josh Groban. Josh who?

Ali wasn’t surprised anymore. She, too, know very well that I am a musical ignoramus. She was actually just taking her chance.

Then last Wednesday afternoon, Ali called again in an almost pleading tone. She finally got a couple of tickets, courtesy of Mon Isberto an Wo Rosete of Smart, and she had to plead because she was asking me to accompany her and was well aware of the fact that I hardly attend pop concerts.

Other people  would have sent a letter to the Vatican praising her for her virtues and for creating modern-day miracles and here I was – hardly thrilled.

But the good friend that I am to her, I granted her that “favor.” Those who failed to get tickets to the Josh Groban concert are probably itching to give me a collective slap by now. Line starts  here.

And so grudgingly, I accompanied her to the PICC and at the entrance, we bumped into Baby who was there with the very  talented musical director Eloisa Matias. “How on earth were you able to drag him here?” That was Baby’s opening line to Ali. As you can see, Baby knows me quite well.

The concert actually started just when we were about to warm our seats. The setup on stage was quite simple. Josh had a grand piano that he sometimes played while he sang and around him were his musicians (both foreign and Filipinos). Behind them was a video wall that showed various clips while he went from song to song. But you ignore that as you watch and listen to this musical genius who captured even the attention of this non-believer.

By the time he was into his second or third song, A Time for Us (from David Lean’s 1965 epic film Dr. Zhivago), I knew it was I who owed Ali a favor because I was enjoying the show, which was lacking in gimmicks and offered only unadulterated talent.

In the middle of the show, to the delight of everyone in the audience, Lani Misalucha (who flew in from Las Vegas just for that show) joined Groban on stage. Together they did a powerful rendition of  The Prayer and there was so much talent before us at that point that I thought for a while there the stage wouldn’t be able to bear its combined weight. I only wished Lani was given a solo spot number because Pinoys miss her so much.

Much appreciated was the portion in the show where Groban went down to the audience area to allow the crowd the  chance to see him up close. He sang while he ran and was never out of breath. I guess that’s possible when you are 26 — his age — and fit. Of course, in some of his songs, he really had his share of flats, but we forgave him for that because generally he displayed unmatched vocal clarity in most of his numbers.

The truth is, he really captured the hearts of everyone who watched the show by the fact that he descended the stage and went around the hall to be one with his crowd. His Pinoy fans now love him even more for that.

From our seats, Ali told me somewhere in the show how it would mean so much to her if Groban sang To Where You Are. It’s one of Groban’s more obscure songs, Ali told me, but that was what saw her through after son Miko Sotto’s death. If only Groban would sing that song.

Toward the end of the show, what do you know? Groban, in his spiels, announced to everyone that he was about to sing this obscure little song — to the delight of Ali. Oh, how she clutched my arm while Groban sang To Where You Are. While she sniffed through the song, there was a little voice in me, pleading: Let go! Let  go! She dug her  fingers into my arm so tight that my blood actually stopped circulating that time.

But that was a small price to pay for such enchanting two hours of beautiful music. By the end of the show, I — who was dragged to that concert with practically a gun pointed at my head — eventually realized that it  was I who was a recipient of such great favor. Thanks, Ali, for inviting me to Josh Groban’s show. Now, get me tickets to the concert of Beyoncé, quick!






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