Thoughts on Josh Groban’s Stages Tour 2016

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What: Stages Tour 2016
Who: Josh Groban
Where: Palais Theatre, Melbourne, Australia
When: 25th April, 2016

Going from memory – so some details may be slightly off … Sorry about that!

In terms of how big of a Josh Groban fan I am, I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle. This is my fourth time seeing Josh in concert, but I have no means attended them all. Josh toured in 2013, also at the Palais theatre, and disappointed with the venue choice, we chose not to go – especially after how wonderful he was in 2009 at Hamer Hall (in which I attended both shows). The third time, you ask, was the special Stages promotional concert last year – which I was very honoured, grateful and pleased to attend (there’s a write up on this blog somewhere).

After being so pleased with last year’s preview, we decided that despite being at the Palais theatre, Josh would still put on a good show – so way back in August last year, we decided to purchase tickets. And what expensive tickets they were! $400 for the fourth row. Now, that is a lot of money for tickets, yes, especially as a lot of, I guess you’d kind of call them VIP tickets, come with extras on a lot of occasions (I’m also aware that other artists charge more). However, I would gladly pay $400 to see Josh perform at Hamer Hall – but there’s just something about the Palais that isn’t worth paying extra for – perhaps it’s because so many lesser known artists play there as well. Hamer Hall, to me, screams grandeur, whereas the Palais does not. However, this is a personal opinion, and others may feel differently.

Besides, it was quite a laugh when Josh mentioned how he was trying to relax in his dressing room before the show and all he could hear were the loud screams every five minutes from people next door on the large roller coaster at Luna Park. He also mentions how he likes playing at venues like the Palais – being 100 years old or so – he said how he liked how the floors were sticky, and the building rich in history. He mentioned how he often tours in places, returning a couple of years later and you can no longer recognise the place or it’s had a name change (he mentioned something viagra stadium, as a laugh). But the Palais will always be the Palais, and he liked that.

Some interesting stories and tidbits:

  • Josh mentioned how when he went to school he was a double threat – he could sing and act, but he couldn’t dance. He said he admired seeing the dancers in musicals. He said at school during his dance classes, his teacher would tell him to stay in the corner and stretch while the others danced.
  • He also said he had a supportive singing teacher. He sang at the back of the choir, as a soprano, but his teacher told him he would be doing a solo in front of the whole school. He said how the school bully came up and told him he had a great voice. But the bully’s was deep and Josh, as a late bloomer, had a high voice.
  • He spoke of how he did a musical at school and he had to have a beard drawn on – he joked how now he’s like Chewbacca all over.
  • He said how he never gets to really check out the venues he performs at. He joked how during interval he was in the foyer wearing a disguise (he said he’d say beard – but that wouldn’t work – as he had full beard). He said, it wasn’t true of course, but he asked how the bathrooms were.
  • Josh said how we had great Chiraz wine – and that explained his energetic, fun and chatty ways that night. He said no one should give him wine before a show and during the interval.
  • He spoke of how growing up in LA, there were no seasons – it was always sunny. He said, even though we’re coming into our winter, people are still wearing singlets and flipflops/thongs here. He said he moved to New York during a blizzard, and he suddenly realised how blessed he had had it in LA.
  • He mentioned Hugh Jackman, and how talented he is on stage and screen. Although, he said he probably just wishes he could always be Wolverine.
  • He said in LA you have to drive 30 minutes to get anywhere – but in New York, he can just hope a train.
  • He mentioned how he has dated girls who love musicals – and girls who don’t.
  • He said singing Pure Imagination was a bit of a cheek as it doesn’t come from a musical – but upon hearing the arrangement, he knew they could cheat a little.
  • He mentioned how he’s going to be performing in a musical this year. He said it’s great that he’s come full circle, with this album and doing the musical.
  • He went and saw Antonio Banderas in Nine (a triple threat – sings, dances and acts). He sat in the front row (the theatre didn’t have a “crocodile -style mote like the Palais does in between the stage and seats). He said how Antonio wore very tight tights, and joked how commando was an interesting choice, and a shirt with no buttons done up except the one at his belly button.

I got a video of it below, but he moved around a bit – so it is not my finest work … (as with a lot of my videos – I record them with no intention of people seeing them – this is one of those – hence the shaky, devil may care, attitude in the video)

Highlights were Anthem from Chess (which he received a standing ovation for) and You’ll Never Walk Alone (the encore), which he dedicated to both the Australian and international men and women fighting for our country. As it was ANZAC day, he said he had been watching the parades all day and seeing how much he honour and give respect to our fallen heroes. He also received standing ovations for Bring Him Home.

Anthem was actually amazing – the lighting, the mood, the sound of the choir behind him. He said he played Anatoly in London (some of you may have the DVD, as I do). He also mentioned how it had a very limited run because the plot changed with every city it went to – and also, you can’t really jazz up playing chess on stage. But Chess fans are really passionate about the musical – and people who don’t know the musical just don’t get it. Chess, being one of my favourite musicals, I understood what he was talking about straight away. Written by Benny and Bjorn from ABBA, mind you, with lyrics by Tim Rice.

During Old Devil Moon, he bought on Michael Olsen – an Australian student studying classical trumpet, I believe. He also spoke of the charity he works with. I believe it has something to do with music – as he said his parents were really supportive of him, and took he and his brother to the theatre about three times a year as children and he caught the bug – so he wanted to give back. If anyone knows the name of the charity, please let me know so I can link to them.

During the end of the show, a girl ran up to the front of the stage with a sign. Josh quickly glanced at it, smiled, but left the stage – upon returning for his encore, he went up to the girl and read the sign out loud. It said something about how her mother had gone through a lot of healthy problems lately (I believe 6 bi pass surgeries, but I can’t be too sure) and how her dream was to sing with Josh on stage. Josh said he didn’t know how to bring her on stage (as there’s a big gap) and didn’t have time to rehearse. But said if he started to sing a song, could she join in on the chorus. She got nervous and said she can’t, so the whole audience joined in in singing You Raise Me Up. He said she had a lovely voice and wished her luck. I took a video > which you can watch below.

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again, I don’t believe that any artist should do a concert with songs from the one album. This rings true for Josh. I’m sure there were many people in the audience who expected Josh to perform his earlier hits – and I don’t blame him. It reminds me of when I saw Tom Jones and he only performed songs from (I’m guessing) his new album – which, I wasn’t aware of and most of the audience didn’t seem to either. I understand an artist probably doesn’t want to only perform the hits but does an artist have an obligation to the fans to sing the songs they came to see? I guess that’s the biggest dilemma when an artist has more than a couple of albums.

I think you should split the difference and play the old and new – not only d I think that it makes the fans happy but people who maybe have just heard the Stages album, upon hearing the older songs, will then go out and buy the earlier stuff. It’s a hard line, and there’s no real answer. As a fan of musical theatre, I had no problem with the format. I was glad that Josh didn’t camp things up with costumes, sets and wigs – which I never thought he would – and upon not knowing the musicals, you may not even realise that these songs were even from musicals at all. Josh did mention that there are some songs that most people aren’t even aware come from musicals – I believe he was talking about All I Ask Of You, but I can’t be sure.

Josh once again bought back musical theatre star, Clair Lyons, who he had with him on his Stages preview, although this time allowing her two solos of her own. I personally thought that that was unnecessary, as we hadn’t come to see her – but I don’t think the audience seemed to mind too much, and it did give Josh a chance to change outfits. He had one costume change, and that was all.

It may sound like I’m complaining a lot, but on a whole, I really did enjoy the concert. Josh, once again, was energetic, charismatic, funny and his voice didn’t disappoint. The audio at the Palais was a little shaky at times – but that can hardly be blamed on Josh at all. If you ever get the opportunity to see Josh – go – he puts on a great show!

Set List:

  • Pure Imagination
  • What I Did For Love
  • Bring Him Home
  • Le Temps Des Cathedrales
  • All I Ask Of You
  • Try To Remember
  • Over the Rainbow
  • Children Will Listen/Not While I’m Around
  • Finishing the Hat
  • Old Devil Moon
  • You’ll Never Walk Alone
  • If I Loved You
  • Anthem
  • Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again (solo by Clair Lyons)
  • I’m In Love With A Wonderful Guy (solo by Clair Lyons)
  • Gold Can Turn To Sand
  • You Raise Me Up
  • Usual Way

^ If anyone knows of any others, please let me know.

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