Friday night, I’m a 29 year old guy finishing a long week. I just finished job number two and am heading to the Xcel Energy Center for music. I check my phone, “what you up to man?”. I say I am heading to the show and the next question I get is “wait, Josh Groban and Elsa are in town?”. Yes, yes they are and there was much celebration. Whether you know Groban and his world hit You Raise Me Up or you’re a Frozen or Wicked fan and more into Idina Menzel you were a happy camper if in attendance tonight. These are a couple of my favorite singers and being my first time hearing either of them live I must say. They can do every bit as amazing of work on a live stage as they can in any studio recording. I shared recordings of the show later with friends and the reaction was unanimously “wow he sounds the same in person”.
Now that I have built these two up sufficiently let me get to the night’s musical review. Because it was fantastic, which is a word I use cautiously in concert writing. But when you are witness to a live theater legend who is just the opener, you are seeing something special. Idina is known by some for her role in Frozen and for others, her parts in Wicked or RENT. But her talent and voice are undeniable either way. Her set for the night did in fact include some Frozen, and also Defying Gravity from Wicked. And I have to point out Menzel’s humor when it comes to Disney. First joke, she points out to the audience that “you all know you love it but you hate it, its ok”. Fair point Mrs.Menzel. Second joke, she takes a selfie for Instagram at one song in her act and jokes “cmon light me well I’m for 47 I need it!” and the crowd laughs. I have to say, I had NO idea Menzel was 47, I always figure 35 maybe but I was very wrong. Her stage presence and voice had me convinced otherwise as well. She knows how to own a stage and entertain seamlessly.
Perhaps the highlight for me in this set, as great as Frozen is, had to be her cover of Stop the World and Melt with You. A classic song and one that her backup singer, violinist, and guitarist rocked on and it almost made me think I was hearing Dave Matthews. Almost. The cover and her duet with backup singer Vanessa Brian(sorry if spelt wrong). These two bounced off one another and crushed their song together, Damn Life is Good. I always find a surprising song out of my normal genres in a show I enjoy, and this would definitely be the choice for tonight.
20 minutes later, a trip for a souvenir cup, and 2 laps walking around the arena later. Josh Groban arrived on stage, and boy did the audience appreciate it. Don’t get me wrong I knew this audience would be excited but when I sat down initially NOBODY was standing. So I thought ok maybe just a clapping crowd. So wrong, so very wrong. The roar was instant and it was loud. Josh understandably after a few songs then took a moment to express his thanks. Which let me step back, because he sounds the same live as in studio. I know many have said this for a while but it is never the same to hear it as be told. I was blown away. Once I had gotten over this shocking realization though Josh was sharing his experiences with Minneapolis and St.Paul to the crowd. He loves the food and people of Minnesota and remembers his previous visits well. Which I also have to note Josh has incredible charisma on stage. This all happened organically, he shared stories and jokes at random and had thoughts spring up smoothly for being in from of over ten thousand fans. As if I wasn’t sure already, Josh is a truly genuine human and good person you can tell from his speaking.
After story time thought he got back to business. Singing a couple songs from his Stages recordings and tossing in a Willy Wonka song, Pure Imagination he was building energy well. And I could almost hear the minds around me saying “but when is he gonna sing Raise Me Up!?!” Soon, he would very soon. But first he had more to share including a personal favorite of mine and others. A Les Miserables’ classic, Bring Him Home. I immediately and shamelessly pulled out my phone and recorded it for numerous friends. To which yes, they all said wow he sounds the same. The notable thing about this and a couple other songs though was he moved to a smaller stage in the middle of the arena. Joking “You new front row people, the old front row people hate you now!”, a resounding chuckle. Before Josh assured the original front row he’d be back.
Finishing up the show finally brought a couple songs I and others had been waiting for. You Raise Me Up and Bridge Over Troubled Waters were hands down songs the entire audience had been waiting for. Whatever sense of energy and loudness there’d be before. The crowd comprised of all walks of life ranging from pre-k to 80+ was ready to hear these classics. You Raise Me Up is a song over a decade old and wasn’t even in the pop culture spotlight longer than any other hit of the time, but you’d never know it. It’s a song which has aged amazingly and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters has found new life with his cover. I knew going to this show it would be a trip down memory lane as my family has loved so much of the music sung this night. But truly it is mind blowing for me to think when I first heard either of these singer’s perform and how wonderfully they’ve stood the test of time. They both joke about being 37 and 47 but frankly they could be 77 and 87 and I would be willing to bet their performances will be just as enjoyable. True performers and lovers of their craft.