Consummate showman Josh Groban took to the stage at Kansas City’s Starlight Theater on Friday night, and though temperatures were still high, fans of the classical crossover artist. Who performed for an hour and forty minutes.
Quick to call attention to the heat, Josh noted “Yes, it’s hot out, but it beats being inside in our pajamas for 2 years. I got real sick of Tiger King.” While also thrilled to be back in Kansas City, at Starlight. “Starlight is one of the most beautiful places in the country to see music, to play music, we love it here. We love coming back to the red brick.” I agree, though I would’ve preferred the air conditioning of the Kauffman, or T-Mobile Center.
Groban was accompanied by his touring band, plus an orchestra of local Kansas City musicians. He was joined onstage throughout the night by members of the KCKCC Alumi Choir. All the musicians played together seamlessly, and anyone could be fooled into believing they’ve been playing together for years.
Speaking of other musicians, Josh wasn’t performing alone. Also on the tour were ELERI WARD, and PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND. Each band adding more texture to a diverse assortment of music that would be heard through the night.
Eleri Ward performed a short set of Stephen Sondheim classics, with an indie-pop/folk flair. A project that started after she went viral on TikTok with her rendition of Johanna from Sweeney Todd. Eleri’s stripped down arrangements, with just an acoustic guitar, and light rasp adds texture to these classics, allowing raw emotion to be felt. As a fan of Sondheim, I wish she had been allotted more time on stage, but happily she had an album available, A Perfect Little Death, with all the songs she performed, and more. Eleri closed out her set with a medley of songs from Into the Woods.
Next was a group that Josh, on the video monitors, said needed no introduction, but he was going to give one anyway. THE HERITAGE HALL JAZZ BAND, from the famed venue of the same name in New Orleans, HERITAGE HALL JAZZ BAND is the sound of the city. The music you hear when you think of New Orleans? That’s them. Without introductions of any sort from the band, or banter between the songs; the band, as they say, played on. The sounds of New Orleans filled the Kansas City air, happily without any sort of KC Jazz vs NOLA Jazz turf war breaking out. The music was beautiful, and lively; at the end of the set, they were given a well deserved standing ovation.
It’s important to recognize the other artists on the bill, especially since Eleri joined Josh onstage later in his set for the “only song in Sweeney Todd not about murdering, or eating people.” Where the two performed Nothing’s Going to Harm You, and Eleri got to demonstrate her skills, and range, even further, effortlessly hitting the highest notes the song could offer.
Josh also had longtime friend, violinist, and actress, Lucia Micarelli, on-hand to perform a beautiful violin solo, and join him in a duet of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now.
With a mix of songs from Sondheim, Sting, Robbie Williams, and his ever popular version of You Raise Me Up, Josh Groban delivered an incredible evening of music. We are still recovering from nearly two years in lockdown, so many people may have really been coming out for the first time since then.
Sometimes, music is a feast for the ears, and sometimes it’s a feast for the soul. With Josh Groban onstage, it’s both.
Setlist: The World We Knew, Shape of My Heart, Angels, February, Granted, She, Lucia Micarelli Violin Solo, Both Sides Now, Cinema Paradiso, Both Sides Now, Alla luce del sole, The Book of Love, How Do I Reach You, Celebrate Me Home, Not While I’m Around, Alejate, The Fullest, You Raise Me Up, The Impossible Dream
Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin