Entertainment

Josh Groban July 4th Fireworks Spectacular

by Kevin Taft
Contributor
Wednesday Jul 3, 2013
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The Hollywood Bowl continues its long tradition of Fourth of July star-studded celebrations with an added dose of youthful star power this year. While past artists that have graced the stage for the yearly show have been on the veteran side (Barry Manilow, Willie Nelson) this year international recording artist Josh Groban lends his spectacular pipes to Hollywood’s most famous concert venue.

The Hollywood Bowl’s "July Fourth Fireworks Spectacular featuring Josh Groban" began its three-night run last night with perfect weather and a sky full of stars. Okay, so there really weren’t any stars to be seen. This is Los Angeles after all, so stars are relegated to the "celebrity" variety. And with Josh Groban taking the stage, last night’s shined.

The evening began classically when the Los Angeles Philharmonic took the stage to play a variety of patriotic pieces led by the popular young conductor Sarah Hicks. Hicks, who has among other gigs worked with Sting on his two-month "Symphonicity" tour and conducted last year’s "Pixar in Concert" at the Bowl, showed her youthful flair by coming out in a breezy fuchsia top and black pants. She engaged the audience like a past master through new classics like John William’s "Summon the Heroes" from the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games to an Armed Forces Suite that had the audience in a full nationalistic swoon.

But the main focus of the evening was Groban. Still boyish at 32, the acclaimed performer has captured the hearts of music fans all over the world with his accessible personality and self-deprecating sense of humor. He knows full well that most of the men in attendance were dragged there by their wives or girlfriends. He understands his audience and is not shy in making light of it.

Yet there is no mistaking the command of his voice and how easily he can move between classical styles and more modern songs. He has a number of tunes he’s penned himself as well as dipping into other artist’s work including many not in the English language. He is a truly versatile performer with a repertoire that includes something for everyone.

Still boyish at 32, the acclaimed performer has captured the hearts of music fans all over the world with his accessible personality and self-deprecating sense of humor.

He opened the night with "Brave" from his new album "All That Echoes" that was a powerful statement about overcoming adversity. He continued with "False Alarms" from the same album before greeting the audience with his boy-next-door sensibility. He told how he and his parents used to watch the Fourth of July show from the lawn seats and how honored he was to be able to grace the stage himself all these years later. He even discovered that there was a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic that had played with the orchestra back when his love of music blossomed.

Throughout the night he wandered through his self-penned hits like the emotional "February Song," modern classics like "Vincent" and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," as well as foreign favorites like "Un Alma Mas" that he performed with the legendary trumpeter (and pianist/composer) Arturo Sandoval. He even took a short break while violinist and concertmaster Christian Hebel rocked out to an instrumental version of "Dream On" before coming back on stage and rocking out himself -- on the drums.

To close out the relatively brief evening, Groban performed Stevie Wonder’s "I Believe" with a local choir and ended with his popular anthem "You Raise Me Up." He then made a swift exit to allow for the fireworks show to start. Conducted again by Hicks, the finale was set to John Philip Sousa’s "The Washington Post," "Semper Fidelis" and "Stars and Stripes Forever."

The evening was over by 10 p.m., which is actually perfect for a "school night," and was filled numerous pleasures not the least of which is being able to watch a beautiful concert under the stars. The Hollywood Bowl is truly the most special venue in all of Los Angeles and to spend it with the likes of Groban and Hicks is just icing on the cake.

"July Fourth Fireworks Spectacular featuring Josh Groban" continues through July 4 at The Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA. For more information about upcoming shows at The Hollywood Bowl and to buy tickets, visit www.HollywoodBowl.com. For information about upcoming tour dates for Josh Groban, visit www.JoshGroban.com.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to ’Star Wars’ and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg. He can be seen in the flesh on the weekly PBS movie review series "Just Seen It."

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