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Concert Reviews:
Josh Groban, Idina Menzel are perfect pairing at Little Caesars Arena
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- There are far worse -- and not many better -- ways to spend an evening than with two entertainers who have fabulous voices and more than amiable personalities.

That was the case on Wednesday night, Nov. 7, when Josh Groban and Idina Menzel brought both virtues, in abundance, to Little Caesars Arena. Seasoned on stage and screen and in the recording studio, the two singers' acts were certainly polished, but with only a whiff of schtick in their often self-deprecating between-song patter -- although Menzel's snort-laugh after a muffed start to the brand new song "Damn, Life is Good" was absolutely spontaneous.

They played nicely together, too, each gushing about the other during their respective sets. Menzel also joined Groban on a second stage near the back of the arena floor during his show for performances of the Academy Award-winning "Once" hit "Falling Slowly" and "Lullaby," a Groban track which the two recorded as a duet for the new "Singing You Home" charity album.

Each dazzled individually as well, nearly every song a display of vocal virtuosity that made for a lot of jaw-dropping throughout the night. Groban -- looking like a college literature professor on break with his bush beard, glasses and brown jacket -- focused on his latest album "Bridges" during his 17-song, 100-minute performance, fronting a five-piece band and full string section of mostly local players in front of a massive video screen, with lasers and light rods dancing above him. He was joined on several songs by Detroit's Mosaic Youth Theatre. He also offered memories about playing at the nearby Fox Theatre -- first as a guest duet partner for Sarah Brightman, then as a headliner -- and even made up a "pizza pizza" jingle for the arena.

Groban spoke earnestly about music's potential as a balm for troubled time and voiced support for arts education in schools, and his performance certainly supported his argument, from his own material to songs in Italian and Spanish and covers of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory's "Pure Imagination," Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman," "Bring Him Home for "Les Miserables" and a majestic rendition of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" that closed the show.

Menzel and her eight-piece band were looser but no less engaging during their opening hour on stage. Sporting a glittery silver pants suit, the Tony Award winner surveyed her Broadway career with material from "Rent" and "Wicked" ("For those who don't know me, I'm the original green girl," she cracked), as well as her hits from the animated film "Frozen." She tacked a bit of the Beatles' "Dear Prudence" onto the end of the latter's "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and added a chorus of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" to "Rent's" "Take Me or Leave Me," but the big surprise of the set was a take on Modern English's 80s pop smash "I Melt With You" that Menzel started as a slow, sultry paean and built into a forceful, full-bodied anthem.

It was, in the end, a perfect pairing that made one plus one equal much more than two -- and will certainly bring anyone back for another round when they return, individually or together again.



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