It can difficult coming down too hard on the venue or performer, but, I’ve been lucky enough to cover artists I’m personally invested in. Josh Groban is a totally different situation but his show here a week from Wednesday has a silver lining. That being an opening act that offsets my opinion of the much loved headliner.
Groban is touring in support of his most recent album, “All That Echos.” For people buying a ticket and clamoring to see him, they probably aren’t going to get many surprises. The self-effacing, avuncular-styled Groban generally delivers an enjoyable, consistent product for his fans. It’s an interactive experience with him frequently taking questions from the crowd, cracking jokes and having a great time while on stage.
And Groban’s incomparable, richly textured baritone voice has few equals.
Still he’s a paradox for me because I have a difficult time with Groban’s crossover attempts at making sappy pop music out of what he was classically trained to do. The marriage of the two genres doesn’t mix well for my taste and walks a fine line between moderately tormenting and outright assaulting my ears. That said, the Sprint Center will be sold out with people in total disagreement with me.
Your well-coiffed Scribe will be there, but Groban won’t be the reason; it will be the wrongfully dismissed contestant from The Voice, Pasadena born and raised, Judith Hill.
If you’re not a fan of the musical TV game show – and I’m not – you may never have heard of Hill, but one of the show’s hosts and her personal coach, Adam Levine, was so enraged by her dismissal he could be heard muttering, “I HATE this country!”
That’s taking your position in the chair a little serious, isn’t it, Adam?
Prior to appearing on The Voice, Hill was on the path to being discovered as Michael Jackson’s primary backup singer for his 2009 tour, “This Is It!” We all know how that ended; MJ died before he could take it on the road.
Still virtually unknown after that little snag, Hill sang towards the end of Jackson’s memorial service, performing the song “Heal the World.” People assumed it was a last minute, unplanned appearance since her name wasn’t even listed in the program. But as a result of the worldwide TV broadcast of Jackson’s funeral, millions of Google and YouTube hits forced Hill to the surface within 24 hours.
After that, Hill received offers to collaborate with Randy Jackson of American Idol and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. According to Rolling Stone, “Hill credits Stewart with pointing her to opportunities in fashion, branding and other areas beyond just the music she’s been focusing on much of the past two years.”
Stewart seems to have had such an effect on her career I called my friend, Brian Totoro, who worked as Stewart’s assistant, engineer and videographer while filming Stewarts’s 2012 The Ringmaster General documentary, the companion piece to the 2012 album of the same title. I caught up with him by phone today, where he was working out of Martina McBride’s Blackbird Studio.
Totoro first met Hill in LA working on the Michael Jackson “This is It” documentary, then again when he shot “Super Heavy,” about the “super group” made up of Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, A. R. Rahman, and Damian Marley where she was doing background vocals.
Totoro describes Hill as “Just a beautiful person who is original enough to be able to sing on anything,” with an amazingly, soulful voice. He went on to add that Hill’s voice has the ability to make its way from full-on gospel, to funk, to R&B – and yes – some hip hop tossed in for good measure.
Hill also has a budding film career. She was with members of the Jackson family at the W Hotel in Hollywood when an impromptu meeting between herself and Spike Lee led to her being asked by him to perform songs for his “Red Hook Summer” movie.
She’s also featured in the documentary “20 Feet from Stardom,” that was released last June about background singers and how they’ve done so many things yet people don’t know their names. “Their stories are just amazing, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Hill commented.
“20 Feet from Stardom” director Morgan Neville said, “She’s heading into a brave new world and she is the whole package. If I was a betting man, I would put money on her.”
I’m here to tell you, it’s a solid bet. I love her and I love her voice.
I’ll be there to see Hill, along with the 15,000 screaming women who are there for a totally different reason. Come join me.