Josh Groban graced the stage at The Palace Theatre in Albany, as the multi-platinum recording artist brought his Stages World Tour to the tri-state area with an incredible vocal performance. The North American tour, set for an intimate atmosphere, is in support of Groban’s seventh studio album Stages, which showcases many famous renditions of some of the greatest musical theater songs of all time.
Groban’s vocal brilliance shines on stage as he sings all-time greats like “Pure Imagination,” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “What I Did for Love,” from “A Chorus Line,” “Bring Him Home,” from “Les Miserables” and “Over the Rainbow,” from “The Wizard of Oz” to name a few.
The sold-out Palace Theatre fans excitedly sat in suspense, awaiting for dashing, charming, funny and vocally graceful Groban, to adorn the theater stage.
As the theater lights dimmed to darkness, the crowd applauded with anticipation as the 75-piece orchestra started the musical journey with the song “Pure Imagination” from the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory“. The crowd’s applause turned to admiration and joy as Josh made himself visible on stage to sing the song made famous by Gene Wilder.
After the song “Try To Remember” from the “Fantasticks,” Groban asked for the fog machine to be turned off, as it was making him choke, not that it bothered his performance at all. Groban sang the song with such emotion and passion.
Josh thanked his parents for taking away the Super Nintendo, and help steer him towards the arts.
Groban relived a childhood moment after the song “What I Did for Love,” from “A Chorus Line”. He reminisced about singing that song at a school show, and then being approached by the jock of the school afterward. Groban jokingly explained, that he thought he was going to get beat up, but instead, the classmate told Groban that had a voice of an angel. Groban while impersonating his young self in a high pitch voice to the laughter of fans replied, “Oh Biff thank you so much.” Josh then switched to Biff’s deep voice and said “If you tell anybody I told you that, I will kick the $#!t out of you next week,” which made the crowd laugh again.
Groban then went on to say, it was that moment that he realized that he could do this. It was a moment he developed his confidence as a human being and realized how important Arts education is to young people whether they go into it professionally or not, and as programs are being cut across the country, it so important to define these moments. Groban then talked about his Find Your Light Foundation to help support the arts and how people could help donate to the cause.
Josh then explained before the song “Old Devil Moon,” from “Finian’s Rainbow,” that this was his first lead role in high school. Groban said he played Woody Mahoney and that they painted a beard on him. Groban then joked to more laughter to the crowd “High five again I can do it myself.” He then said, careful what you wish for and that he is basically a head-to-toe chia pet now.
Groban stated to the crowd that he was very excited for their ears right now. “I’m very excited for your ah, your ah, your ah, after stumbling then blurted out — canals,” to laughter from the crowd and himself. Josh went on to say not because of him, but because of who he is about to bring out to the stage.
Groban then introduced Lena Hall to the stage for a beautiful duet, after he touted some of her accolades, to help him with the next song from “The Phantom of the Opera,” “All I Ask of You.” Groban joked that he was kind of regretting turning the fog off now, because they were about to do something from Phantom of the Opera, and said he feels like he can’t do something from Phantom without fog. Then joked again “It’s ok. We’ll be fine but our sinuses thank us. Groban then said that he wanted to be the Phantom so bad, that he made a paper mache mask in art class.
Lena stayed on stage after the duet to sing the first of her two solo covers the Queen song “Save Me,” which can be found on Hall’s new Sin and Salvation live album. Lena stated that the album consist of all songs that inspired her or by people who inspire her as a vocalist and performer. Lena then said that one of those main people is Freddy Mercury, and that she connects with the song itself so much.
After Hall’s performance, a giant painting of “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” by artist Georges Seurat, was placed on the far right of the stage.
Groban then returned to the stage to explain the painting. He said one of his first theatrical experiences, is when he was nine years old, and his parents took away the Nickelodeon, popped in a VHS of “Sunday in the Park with George” by Steven Sondheim. Josh further explained that Sondheim uses interesting stories like the one about the painting. Groban joked that the painting on the stage is not the original and that they didn’t steal it from the Chicago Art Museum. Groban explained that Sondheim chose George Seurat to tell a story of those universal human emotions we have that drives us to passion, and drives us in ours lives, and sometimes the sacrifices we have to make for that passion. Groban then introduced the song that was influenced by the painting, “Finishing the Hat.”
Groban introduced the Nazareth College Choir to the stage for the next song. From the show “Chess,” Groban then sang the song that finishes the first act called “Anthem.” Groban said as a book, the show still hasn’t found its way as a full on Broadway production, but the music and the lyrics have been absolutely brilliant. Groban than gave another amazing vocal performance, as the crowd stood and applauded with overwhelming admiration.
After a small intermission and an outfit change, Groban returned to the stage for the second half of the show.
Before he got started, Josh joked over the mic “I hope you are sufficiently empty.” Josh then noted that his manager busted into his dressing room during the break and told him that he was mispronouncing Albany. Groban responded with a deep slow “Oh $#!t.” Groban then joked that fans didn’t seem to care that he said their city wrong and then apologized for what he called a terrible, terrible mistake. Then he made fun of himself by calling himself an idiot and jokingly mispronouncing the word along with apologies and the next town of Syracuse to the laughter of fans.
Josh explained, as a singer you get awesome opportunities to pick songs from all facets from the musical theater world, not just nationally. France is one of those places.
While introducing his next song “Le temps des cathedrals,” from “Notre Dame de Paris,” Groban said that other countries also love musicals as many of you tonight who love musicals, then joked “If you don’t, then your probably not back after the intermission.” Groban then kept to original form by masterfully singing the song elegantly in French, to another standing ovation.
After thanking the crowd in French, Groban’s next song is not from the Stages album. Josh then talked about a song from a show he saw called “Nine,” with Antonio Banderas. Groban then did some Banderas impersonations before getting serious again. Groban the sung “Unusual Way”.
Once again, Groban brought out the lovely Lena Hall for their second duet of the evening. Hall came out in a sparking dress which prompted Groban to say “You look sparkly and wonderful, I would hug you but I would get sparkles all over me…and I would like it too much,” which made everyone chuckle. Josh then said that he and Lena are going to sing a beautiful duet together, also from “Sunday in the Park with George” called “Move On.”
This then led into Hall’s second solo performance. Hall said that her parents are huge Beatles fans, and therefore she is a huge Beatles fan. Lena then added that her father’s favorite Beatle, was Paul McCartney, and that she wanted to do something for her dad cause he is very special to her. Then quickly reiterated, “so is my mom,” which made her and the crowd laugh. Hall then performed “Maybe I’m Amazed”.
Groban returned to the stage and executed another amazing vocal rendition. This time he delighted fans with “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables,” to a third standing ovation.
Groban the introduced and thanked the musicians on stage before welcoming back the Nazareth College Choir. Groban the joked with the choir “You look good, smelling good. You guys ready for this? It’s a hard one. I need your help.” Groban then went on to say that the next song is very uplifting to him, from the Carousel, Josh dedicated “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” to the victims and families from the recent tragedies in Oregon.
The Albany crowd gave yet again, another standing ovation, as they applauded and whistled until Groban made his way out for an encore song.
The admiration and love from the crowd prompted the overwhelmed Groban to say “Albany, you tremendously hospitable, generous city, thank you so much for all of this. Thank you for the warmth you thrown our way all night. It truly means so much to us.”
The final song of the evening Groban said he loved since he could breathe basically. Groban then went on to say that when making the Stages record, they were going to originally make it a double album with one being film songs, and the other being Broadway tunes. He said with so many songs over lapping, that they decided to go with a Broadway album. Josh then stated if there was one song that it was ok to cheat with, it was this next song because it is so wonderful.
Groban than ended an amazing night of music with “Over The Rainbow,” from “The Wizard of Oz”.
Setlist: Pure Imagination, Try to Remember, What I Did for Love, Old Devil Moon, All I Ask of You, Save Me (Lena Hall), Finishing the Hat, Anthem, Children Will Listen, Le temps des cathedrals, Unusual Way, Move On, Maybe I’m Amazed(Lena Hall), Bring Him Home, You’ll Never Walk Alone Encore: Over The Rainbow