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The world is getting (in the) round for Josh Groban

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

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Josh Groban was in New York this past New Year's Eve, but he never saw the ball drop.

Battling "a really bad cold," he performed at Lincoln Center, then went back to his hotel suite and fell asleep. But he woke up with a new year's resolution -- "To make the rest of the year 10 times more exciting than my New Year was."

Mission accomplished.

In February the classically trained singer, who's sold nearly 22 million albums in the U.S., logged his third No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with "All That Echoes," his sixth studio album overall. The album popped out the Top 20 Adult Contemporary hits "Brave," which Groban co-wrote, and a cover of Stevie Wonder's "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)," with a third single, "Hollow Talk," on the way. And Groban, who's acting resume includes TV's "Ally McBeal" and the film "Crazy, Stupid, Love," will be appearing in Robin Williams' new CBS comedy "The Crazy Ones."

But most exciting, he says, is his In The Round Round World Tour, his first-ever 360-degree performance and an idea he says "has been on my creative bucket list for awhile now."

The set-up is an outgrowth of the satellite second stage the Los Angeles-born Groban, 32, he employed during his Straight To You Tour in 2011. "Every time we got on that little stage there was an energy that broke the walls of a normal concert and became something that made the audience such participants in the energy of the show," Groban says. "That's the most honest and exciting as you can get as a singer. There's nowhere to hide. We were always kind of sad to leave that little stage and go back to the big, fancy one.

"So as I was planning this tour, I thought, 'What's a way to build on that energy but still keep it intimate and have the best of both worlds?' So doing this tour we're doubling down on the idea of being in the middle, so there are no bad seats and the crowd all around me."

Groban readily acknowledges a couple of predecessors who inspired him to go the in-the-round route, too.

"I've always loved seeing some of the bigger rock acts do it," he says. "I figure if U2 can do it in football stadiums we can certainly do it in half an arena. And I loved seeing people like Frank Sinatra do it at Madison Square Garden; all he had was an orchestra on the side of the stage and a microphone with a wire. That's the most bare bones you can get.

"If we can find some kind of happy medium, but within the energy and spirit of both, I'll be happy."

The tour will keep Groban on the road until Nov. 23, at which point he's planning to return to the studio with "All That Echoes" producer Rob Cavallo. Groban says the pair has "two albums now we're kind of tossing around," one of which he calls "traditional. We're finding and writing songs for that." The other, meanwhile, is "kind of secret. It's definitely something different. I'd like to tell the fans what we're up to, but we have a few ducks to line up as far as scheduling it, so I want to be conservative right now and not say anything yet."

Nevertheless, Groban says that after the reception for "All That Echoes" he feels even more confident about whatever he delivers next.

"It's always more and more exciting to me," Groban says. "Everything we threw into this album represents positive growth and experience, the good and the bad I've learned from the last couple of years.

"And I can honestly say I feel very lucky my fans have been with me through all of this. I feel like six albums in I can make something and look them all in the eye and say, 'This is my best work...' "

Josh Groban and Judith Hill perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $47.50-$97.50. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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