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April 17, 2014

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Review: Josh Groban plays crooner, charmer and comedian at MGM Grand Garden Arena

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Josh Groban’s 2011 “Straight to You” tour stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011.

Josh Groban at MGM Grand Garden Arena

Josh Groban's 2011 Straight to You Tour stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Aug. 20, 2011. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Josh Groban.

Click to enlarge photo

Josh Groban.

Singer-songwriter, actor, musician and producer Josh Groban was a quadruple threat in another way during his “In the Round” tour stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday night: The 32-year-old L.A. native played the part of singer, musician, charmer and comedian to his gathering of Grobanites.

The arena was transformed into what Groban called his “playground,” an in-the-round stage with upper seats cut off by black curtains to provide a more intimate setting.

Groban, dressed in his usual casual chic of a black jacket, a white V-neck T-shirt, blue jeans and white sneakers, made good use of the set-up, circling the stage throughout the evening to give all of his fans equal love and time of his baritone-bordering-on-tenor voice with a few higher-than-high notes.

Sunday night’s setlist included his new single “Brave,” “False Alarms,” “February Song,” “Un Alma Mas,” Don McLean’s “Vincent,” Jimmy Webb’s “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” “Remember When It Rained” with opening act Judith Hill (of “The Voice” and Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” fame) and Aerosmith’s “Dream On” with solos from his fantastic band — which included a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, a saxophonist and out-of-this-world violinist Christian Hebel — who hailed from far-flung countries including Cameroon, Finland and Ukraine.

Plus, his 2001 breakout hit “To Where You Are,” “She Moved Through the Fair,” “The Prayer” (from “Quest for Camelot” and which still elicits chills) with Hill and Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever),” in which a choir from Las Vegas accompanied Groban. Groban crooned and played the piano and the drums — all with precision.

In between songs, Groban proved to be an apt comedian and a charming conversationalist. He told the men in the audience that he saluted them and that they had earned big brownie points with their ladies for being at the concert. With Las Vegas offering “too much good” and “too much everything,” he said that he spent Saturday night in the hotel “watching ‘Pacific Rim’ and ordering soup.” Riiight.

His response to “take it off”: “You don’t want that. … No Groban From Down Under!” He talked of singing “The Prayer” as a 17-year-old in rehearsals for the Grammy Awards with Celine Dion and his breakout role as Malcolm Wyatt in “Ally McBeal,” which was expanded after Robert Downey Jr. was incarcerated.

Questions from audience members, the aforementioned Grobanites, covered plush toys, an avid fan turning Groban’s autograph on an arm into a tattoo, a congratulations to newlyweds in the front row and going commando (don’t ask).

The night’s lone odd, blink-and-you-missed-it moment: Because of the in-the-round setup, an usher walking into the arena from a hallway at ground level could be seen on the four large screens in the background as Groban sang. That was probably not supposed to be part of the production.

Groban’s encore of the mega-popular and inspirational “You Raise Me Up” and Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” was a sweeping and charming end to a perfect evening.

Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

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