IN PHOTOS: Josh Groban in Manila

Stephen Lavoie
Josh serenades Manila with Lea Salonga and Christian Bautista as guests

ONE NIGHT MANILA. Josh Groban serenades the crowd during his concert. All photos by Stephen Lavoie/Rappler

“Sensational” is one way to describe the performance of Josh Groban on Friday night, February 22 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. “When you record music as a singer you slide it under the door and hope that people connect to it, you don’t really know,” the singer said.

There are only a handful of artists in the music industry today that are gifted with the vocal prowess to generate the stamina and skill required to compete with the nearly full ABS-CBN Orchestra, the esteemed Ateneo Choral Singers and a full touring band with two percussionists.

Most vocalists would be drowned out, overwhelmed with an abundance of instruments on stage but Josh’s voice soared over the sound like a dream. 

SING IT. Josh and his band perform some of the songs he's become known for.

One of the risks of performing on such a crowded stage is that isn’t just a chance of technical problems but the music itself can mistakingly become a garbled mess. But there was no cacophony here with a concert glowing with a pleasing aura and a comfortable flow.

The instrumentation itself was well thought out and blended fluidly with melodic combinations of the various instruments depending on what the song lent itself too. The variations seem limitless as the hefty 19 song setlist meandered gracefully from well-know tracks too instrumentals and solos on piano with a few duets performed with special guests. 

POP AND OPERA. Many of his songs include from musicals, pop, and classics.  

A quieter moment of the show when Josh sat alone at the piano, performing “Wandering Kind” which showcased his spectacular voice. After the song, he explained that the track is not included in the Bridges Tour setlist. It was added just for Manila and he had devoted some time before the concert rehearsing at the hotel since he hadn’t sung it in so many years. You’d never have known.

Another standout for the evening was Michael Jackson’s “She’s Out of My Life” also a song exclusive to Manila. It never gained much traction in the US as a B-side but delighted folks here and in the Asian market so it was really never sung at concerts. 

The setlist included Broadway show covers like “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables and “Stages” which is no surprise considering Groban played Pierre Bezukhov in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, which earned him a nomination for a Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical. The fans also responded well to “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. 

MUSICALS. Josh performs songs from musicals such as ' Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812' and 'Les Miserables.'

His stage presence was masterful and appeared like second nature, addressing the crowd meaningfully and often. In between songs the arena listened carefully as Josh shared memories from his teen years when he was encouraged by an exceptional teacher to perform publicly. He shared insights regarding the songs themselves with various backstories of his musical career like when he stood in for Andrea Bocelli at the Grammys or first appeared on the TV show Ally McBeal many years ago. He also spoke of how music can reach out to people in need. 

“It’s an incredible thing to be able to use music as therapy, in a way to get out of your head when you are feeling dark. We live in such an Instagram world where everything has to be perfect, everything has to look perfect,” Josh said, “of course that’s not always the case.” 

 HELLO MANILA. Josh talks to the audience in between song numbers.

Lea Salonga joined him on stage for a couple of duets, singing “All I Ask of You’ and “The Prayer.”

It’s difficult to put into words how wonderful these songs were, their voices sounded so beautiful together, a match made in heaven. Certainly one of the top ten live vocal performances I have experienced in my lifetime. The crowd did not want to see this portion of the show end and when Lea was escorted off the stage in a wheelchair due to a recent ski injury in Japan, you could hear the crowd plead for more.

They also had a plethora of entertaining banter in between the music with talks of mutual admiration and comical anecdotes from two monumental figures in entertainment. Yet it was laid back with an easy feel so all in attendance just felt as though they were part of a conversation between friends. 

{source} <blockquote class=”instagram-media” data-instgrm-permalink=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BuMyNXDlISR/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” data-instgrm-version=”12″ style=” background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:540px; min-width:326px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% – 2px); width:calc(100% – 2px);”><div style=”padding:16px;”> <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BuMyNXDlISR/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” style=” background:#FFFFFF; line-height:0; padding:0 0; text-align:center; text-decoration:none; width:100%;” target=”_blank”> <div style=” display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;”></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;”></div></div></div><div style=”padding: 19% 0;”></div><div style=”display:block; height:50px; margin:0 auto 12px; width:50px;”><svg width=”50px” height=”50px” viewBox=”0 0 60 60″ version=”1.1″ xmlns=”https://www.w3.org/2000/svg” xmlns:xlink=”https://www.w3.org/1999/xlink”><g stroke=”none” stroke-width=”1″ fill=”none” fill-rule=”evenodd”><g transform=”translate(-511.000000, -20.000000)” fill=”#000000″><g><path d=”M556.869,30.41 C554.814,30.41 553.148,32.076 553.148,34.131 C553.148,36.186 554.814,37.852 556.869,37.852 C558.924,37.852 560.59,36.186 560.59,34.131 C560.59,32.076 558.924,30.41 556.869,30.41 M541,60.657 C535.114,60.657 530.342,55.887 530.342,50 C530.342,44.114 535.114,39.342 541,39.342 C546.887,39.342 551.658,44.114 551.658,50 C551.658,55.887 546.887,60.657 541,60.657 M541,33.886 C532.1,33.886 524.886,41.1 524.886,50 C524.886,58.899 532.1,66.113 541,66.113 C549.9,66.113 557.115,58.899 557.115,50 C557.115,41.1 549.9,33.886 541,33.886 M565.378,62.101 C565.244,65.022 564.756,66.606 564.346,67.663 C563.803,69.06 563.154,70.057 562.106,71.106 C561.058,72.155 560.06,72.803 558.662,73.347 C557.607,73.757 556.021,74.244 553.102,74.378 C549.944,74.521 548.997,74.552 541,74.552 C533.003,74.552 532.056,74.521 528.898,74.378 C525.979,74.244 524.393,73.757 523.338,73.347 C521.94,72.803 520.942,72.155 519.894,71.106 C518.846,70.057 518.197,69.06 517.654,67.663 C517.244,66.606 516.755,65.022 516.623,62.101 C516.479,58.943 516.448,57.996 516.448,50 C516.448,42.003 516.479,41.056 516.623,37.899 C516.755,34.978 517.244,33.391 517.654,32.338 C518.197,30.938 518.846,29.942 519.894,28.894 C520.942,27.846 521.94,27.196 523.338,26.654 C524.393,26.244 525.979,25.756 528.898,25.623 C532.057,25.479 533.004,25.448 541,25.448 C548.997,25.448 549.943,25.479 553.102,25.623 C556.021,25.756 557.607,26.244 558.662,26.654 C560.06,27.196 561.058,27.846 562.106,28.894 C563.154,29.942 563.803,30.938 564.346,32.338 C564.756,33.391 565.244,34.978 565.378,37.899 C565.522,41.056 565.552,42.003 565.552,50 C565.552,57.996 565.522,58.943 565.378,62.101 M570.82,37.631 C570.674,34.438 570.167,32.258 569.425,30.349 C568.659,28.377 567.633,26.702 565.965,25.035 C564.297,23.368 562.623,22.342 560.652,21.575 C558.743,20.834 556.562,20.326 553.369,20.18 C550.169,20.033 549.148,20 541,20 C532.853,20 531.831,20.033 528.631,20.18 C525.438,20.326 523.257,20.834 521.349,21.575 C519.376,22.342 517.703,23.368 516.035,25.035 C514.368,26.702 513.342,28.377 512.574,30.349 C511.834,32.258 511.326,34.438 511.181,37.631 C511.035,40.831 511,41.851 511,50 C511,58.147 511.035,59.17 511.181,62.369 C511.326,65.562 511.834,67.743 512.574,69.651 C513.342,71.625 514.368,73.296 516.035,74.965 C517.703,76.634 519.376,77.658 521.349,78.425 C523.257,79.167 525.438,79.673 528.631,79.82 C531.831,79.965 532.853,80.001 541,80.001 C549.148,80.001 550.169,79.965 553.369,79.82 C556.562,79.673 558.743,79.167 560.652,78.425 C562.623,77.658 564.297,76.634 565.965,74.965 C567.633,73.296 568.659,71.625 569.425,69.651 C570.167,67.743 570.674,65.562 570.82,62.369 C570.966,59.17 571,58.147 571,50 C571,41.851 570.966,40.831 570.82,37.631″></path></g></g></g></svg></div><div style=”padding-top: 8px;”> <div style=” color:#3897f0; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;”> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style=”padding: 12.5% 0;”></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;”><div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);”></div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;”></div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);”></div></div><div style=”margin-left: 8px;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;”></div> <div style=” width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)”></div></div><div style=”margin-left: auto;”> <div style=” width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);”></div> <div style=” width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);”></div></div></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;”></div></div></a><p style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;”><a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BuMyNXDlISR/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none;” target=”_blank”>A post shared by Ovation Productions (@ovationprod)</a> on <time style=” font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;” datetime=”2019-02-22T21:50:00+00:00″>Feb 22, 2019 at 1:50pm PST</time></p></div></blockquote>
<script async src=”//www.instagram.com/embed.js”></script>{/source}

Christian Bautista also performed “Will We Meet Again” with Josh called and their voices matched fluidly. Christian opened the concert earlier in the evening in an impressive fashion with a few songs to get the mostly-over-50 crowd warmed up. 

 BROTHER. Christian Bautista is one of the guests in the concert.

 

THANK YOU. Josh entertains the audience.

“I’ve half-joked at interviews but I think that it’s actually true. I think there are more great singers in the Philippines than anywhere else in the world.” Josh Groban said. 

As the concert drew to a close, he finished up solo on the piano with the Simon and Garfunkel classic, “Bridge over Troubled Waters,” which obviously moved the entire crowd with lyrics and emotions that are as relevant today as they were when the song was written in 1970.

Even if you’re not a super fan of this adult contemporary or Broadway musical genre if you ever get the chance to go see this artist perform live, you won’t regret it. – Rappler.com