Paul Wilson: Josh Groban with Judith Hill @ the Sprint Center – 10/16


Judith Hill performs at Sprint October 16th

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.

74C80FED-FF0C-1313-60F2F65E98374B7FAnd that’s OK.

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?

20-feet-judith-hill-500x250Prior 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.

Dave Stewart

Dave Stewart

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.

grobanShe is joining Groban for parts of his tour, performing a couple of songs with him on stage, but has also backed Stevie Wonder and Sir Elton John along the way.

“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.
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23 Responses to Paul Wilson: Josh Groban with Judith Hill @ the Sprint Center – 10/16

  1. harley says:

    saw groban in vegas. he’s got an incredible voice but sometimes a little
    slow of a show.
    that Judith hill is incredible …saw her on that voice show.
    think its in the round so it should be entertaining.
    she should have won it all.

  2. Alexis says:

    I am one of those Josh Groban fans who, though I will not be screaming, will be thrilled the moment Mr. Groban steps onto the stage that night after making a 5 hour flight, then a 5 hour drive to get there. Yes, I am a Grobanite. I am one who never heard of Judith Hill, but did take the time to listen to her on YouTube and have seen a few recent videos of her performing with Josh. First, Josh Groban is not with Judith Hill, Judith Hill is performing with Josh Groban. If you wanted to write an article about Judith Hill, you should have done so and simply added, she is part of Mr. Groban’s “In The Round” Tour, without making the unnecessary digs at Josh Groban. He is not the cup of tea for others so you are not alone. For those of us who are serious followers of him, and/or have followed him throughout his career, we do so not only for his music, but because, he has shared much of himself with us, been generous and kind with us, has been down to earth and appears to be an all around nice guy. That we feel he has the voice of an angel, is a major plus. There are countless true stories of how he, and his music, has in some way,comforted, healed, saved a life, soothed dying family members, brought peace to a mother as she buried her child,and brought joy at weddings and in worship services,or just got someone through a day. These are just some of the reasons we are so passionate about Josh. So, please, when you go, understand with whom, you sit, besides the screamers. There are many men, yes men and not dragged by wives or girlfriends or boyfriends, and women there, who will love the talent Judith Hill brings with her and are appreciative that Josh has the foresight to select her, but also,honestly think he is worth much more than the money they paid for their seat, but are grateful , his shows are within range. We care about him;him, his family and his dog, Sweeney. Hope you enjoy the show. All of it.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Wowzers; I touched a Grobanite exposed nerve!
      First, by “with” I just meant appearing together; at no time did I mean to imply Judith was the headliner and Josh was her valet but also allowed to sing some.
      Yes, admittedly as I said, my focus was on Hill, she’s just more my style.
      I did not, however, realize he had healed leppers, raised the dead and cured diseases in past performances or remotely by CD.
      I DID day his voice is incomparable, just not my cup of tea.
      But with all you said, I will adjust my thoughts and give him a strong listen; who knows, I got forced to take someone to Barry Manilow 20 years ago. I went with a bag on my head so no one would recognize me, and in the end, found it delightful.
      Excuse me, I have to go turn in my man card now.

    • Mary F Bennett says:

      I could not have said it better myself . Josh Groban is the total complete package. Iam a total Grobanite to the core and yes, Judith is performing with the fabulous Josh Groban. this is the Josh Groban In The Round Tour! We Grobanites are not happy when Josh is criticized in any way. yes, you did strike a Grobanite nerve! Go to his concert & just let his pure talent win you over!

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        Grobanites; this must be the adult female version of “Directioners?”

        • nerdalert says:

          Please just don’t stereotype his fans. Uuugh I hate that SO much! Believe it or not there are kids and men out there who really like his music too, not just “adult females”. When you go to his concerts you can see that there are families, young couples and yes, even men in the audience. I don’t want you to like him/his music just be a little bit more open minded. Otherwise you may easily offend fans without meaning to . Thank you.

  3. Irene says:

    Your a real idiot, because Josh Groban was absolutely fantastic and Judith Hill was just OK

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Good night, Irene, that makes me a “real idiot?” Its just a matter of personal taste……
      Do you have an equal love for KISS?
      Willy Nelson?
      Miley Cyrus?
      Ozzie Osbourne?
      Rob Zombie?
      Maroon 5?

      If you dont think ALL of the above are GREAT, you’re just a real idiot!

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      And, Irene, “youre” is the proper usage you were looking for; don’t mean for a real idiot to have to learn you sumthin….but…

  4. Queen Mary says:

    Paul, my first comment is on your writing technique. Son, you need to go back to high school and learn proper grammar and writing. I am a Grobie, a Grobanite, what ever you would choose to call me. Josh is a very special talent, he is fabulous to with his fans; but it goes farther than that. We also follow members of his band. Have you ever heard of Luscia Micarelli? What is the name of his music director and lead guitarist name, who just became a father. Have you met Christian Hebel? I have. All of these people and more come out and meet the fans, sign autographs, TALK to you, and always with a great smile of pride to be in the company of Josh and respectful of all of the fans. I also love Michael Buble` and Il Divo. They are probably not your cup tea either. Of those three none is better than another apples and oranges. As for your list, I don’t see David Foster (if you don’t know who he is or Barry Gibb or Celine Dion etc etc etc) fighting his way to have anything to do with the likes of her. Your comments about Miss Hill are probably very true. I had been looking forward to seeing and hearing her to make my own judgment…I sir, do have a brain. I can also tell you this, I have been to the depths of hell when my son was brutally and mercilessly murdered. There were many times (and I still have days) when I am ready to take that final breath so I can be with my son again. My dear friend introduced me to Josh’s music. She did not say, you should listen to this song or that song, she let me find the songs that stopped me at the edge of that cliff. If are so bitter and closed off, perhaps you should be released from the horrible job of attending this kind of concert. I was not going to make attacks at you personally, but maybe this whole idea of thinking you are some kind of critic of any kind of music is not your cup of tea at all. Perhaps you could start reporting of cage fighting. Your list, is interesting. There are some remarkable talents there but there are just as many that are an affront to the entire industry. Josh Groban’s songs saved my life and Il Divo can reach down to the very depths of my soul and bring tears. Josh knows he saved my life, I have met him and told him so. My son would be about the same age as Josh, oh and Josh knows that too. I don’t think Ozzy knows what day it is anymore but I still love his work. Miley is going to fade to black, maybe she can team up with Leif Garret. I drove 5+ hours to see Josh Groban in Kansas City. I will not ever attend another concert in your city, my money will be better spent in another city & state. I hope he skips your venue on his next tour. Then you will not have to endure him. You can then cover cage fights, dog fights, Te9ch and any other “talent” you think is worthy of your ignorant, limited and atrotious. musical palette.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      First, Queen Mary; I’m exceedingly sorry for your loss and anything, any one or any style of music that got you through that is and was a positive thing for you and I’m grateful you found that vehicle.
      The list I made, in comparison, are all groups I dislike with the exception of Willy. My point was I don’t know how someone attacks on based on musical taste….as you did me. Also, I’m not a gage fighting or hip hop fan, but that’s fine if that’s how you see me. Anyone who knows me would find your assessment humorous.
      I expressed that Groban was not my cup of tea, you come at me like a spider monkey. Interesting.
      That aside, I’ll repeat what I said earlier; I have four kids, I can’t imagine a horror worse than losing one of them. Anything that served as balm for a wound like that is a blessing.
      I’m really a nice guy and don’t take myself nearly as serious as you seem to have taken me. I have to take my ignorant self, lick my wounds and start another poorly written high school quality story. Have a great night.

      • harley says:

        that’s nice Wilson…but you act like a writer when your
        spelling and grammar are poor.
        Not as bad as mine..but I don’t pretend to review
        shows or pretend to be another wodward on an
        investigative article.
        nice that you apologized…but you can do better.
        stick to the investigative angles…you know all the
        dudes at the courthouse and I’m sure there’s
        plenty of “hot off the presses ” stories waiting for
        you to educate us with.

  5. Queen Mary says:

    I did not like the real idiot comment made at you. I was also trying to say there is ALL kinds of music and too many magnificent musicians and vocalists for someone to only like ONE. You made the snide comment about healing the leppers etc. I wish Springsteen would or could sue Miley on “Wrecking ball” as you may or may not know that is his latest album, tour name (which I attended in Omaha) yahda yahda but he doesn’t own the word. I don’t have to see it or hear it to know that Miley’s sexual wrecking ball IS IN NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM The Boss. I apologize if I attacked you but you put all Grobies on the defensive with the way you worded your statements about Josh. Again, I can’t wait to see him again and I honestly want to she and HEAR Ms. Hill. If she is in with Josh she is in good company and that can make or break an artist. Interesting note. When Garth Brooks was just starting out, he opened for the Judds. The crowd here were booing the Judds off the stage because they wanted more of Garth. Garth then came around solo…guess who was selling tshirts for him, Martina McBride. Next time around, she was his opening act and now she has others opening for her. It is a circle and very important to start out with the right company to lead you and to learn from. My son was my only child. Music – all kinds of music should speak to the person listening. Please join the crowd, try to put your self in my shoes as you listen to him sing and then discuss his undefined genre….he doesn’t fit in any specific kind…that is why people sometimes just don’t quite know how to take him or understand it….it just happens, if you let it. Hug your kids tight – I love Willy too – see it doesn’t matter….you have to have an open mind and heart to truly love all music. I have my concerns on how this “In the Round” is going to go – as Josh always talks about how he can’t dance – uncoordinated….I am afraid he will trip and fall. Which we had a few years ago in Sturgis with Steven Tyler and Paul McCartney forgot the stage moved behind him and he fell in a hole some years ago. So, we may get a 3 stooges improv for our $$$$$$$$$$

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Queen, read closely, this was the readers comment to me;
      “Your a real idiot, because Josh Groban was absolutely fantastic and Judith Hill was just OK”

      I pointed out several artist a large group of people wouldn’t like, even thought they too have fans. Kiss, Miley, etc. Musical artist. I made the ridiculous statement to her, as she had just done to me, that if she didn’t like THEM..she was just a “real idiot.”

      Did you string all that together? I used her comment to me on her in the very same way to highlight how idiotic it was. You don’t have the same level of musical appreciation for an artist that I do…. so you’re reduced to “idiot?”

      I said many, many complimentary things about Groban. Many. I made technical comments, richness of his baritone voice. His voice has no equal. Those buying a ticket will get no surprises. He always delivers a consistent product. He’s so interactive with the crowd. Re-read what I said.
      I’m lessened as a reviewer because I said he’s not my cup of tea? Have you ever read a review of a movie that you loved and a reviewer just simply hated it? If so, was that a cause for him to go back to high school, learn rap and start covering MMA cage fights because he’s a no taste idiot? No, was just moved differently than you………….by a movie.
      I’m not curing cancer here, I’m writing opinions.
      You have positively some of the deepest reasons anyone could have to be “connected” to Groban. I spent last week hanging out back stage with Michael Franti, likely some of the most spiritual, positive music I’ve heard in I don’t know how long. He played to a packed house. I said in the preview I went to a concert last year where he opened; I wasn’t a fan of reggae based music so I got there late into his set and was proven how wrong I was! I went to this show JUST to see him and he’s a new favorite of mine now.
      Opinions, Madam Queen.
      That’s all we are talking about here. I was totally moved by Franti, more so than I have been in years by an artist. You may not be moved by a single song of his. Would that make you a “total idiot” as I was called?
      She used that line; I used it satirically back on her to show how silly it was.
      Again, I’ve been too close to three sets of parents who lost a child; it’s a pain I have no comparison to. It’s not something me or anyone else can say, “I know how you feel, Mary,” because unless you’ve walked in those shoes you simply don’t.
      If its music, therapy or Jesus that got you through that, no one in KC or South Dakota should judge you for what healed you. I simply expressed an opinion of musical taste for myself.
      Writing like this generates comments; trust me, they aren’t always rainbows and unicorns. When the lady called me an idiot, I just thought that idiotic statement needed to be put in perspective.
      I may very well BE an idiot, but it would be for reasons other than my musical taste!
      Thanks and, again, I’m sorry for your loss. You’re in my prayers and thoughts.

  6. paulwilsonkc says:

    Oh, and Queen, my friend Brian, who I interviewed for this piece, called me from Martina’s place! He came there from Keith Urbans home studio he’d just designed and built!
    Garth opened the Sprint Center, playing 147 concerts in a row, or some crazy number. I actually think it was 8 or 9.
    I’m not a Garth fan, went for the experience and loved it! I own none of his music, but the performance was first rate.
    I’ve met countless artist, my wife is one of the top jazz voices in the city but also leads worship at a church of nearly 20,000! I’m all over the map with music. My iPhone has Boucelli, Andrea Crouch, Steely Dan, Pavorotti and Led Zep along with 14 hours of diverse artists!
    Reviews are opinions, nothing more. Every story I write comes with an array of comments, good and bad. That’s fine; stick your neck out and take a position…you’re going to hear about how stupid you are. Some even suggest you should go back to high school because you can’t write. Some far worse. It’s just part of the game.
    Bottom line, I raised 4 kids who are adults and took on 4 much younger step kids; they are hugged and told how much they are loved with each conversation or meeting, when we are together. That’s what life is made of, not who likes jazz and who doesn’t. Not if you’re a fan of XYZ and I’m not so much.
    Take care, I’ll go practice my writing skills now, try to do better, but open mind or not, no cage matches or rap. Because, you know, you can’t spell CRAP…without “rap!”

    • Queen Mary (you know ~ like the big fat ship) says:

      Dude…..I was on YOUR side!!!!!!!!!!!!! I felt that calling YOU an idiot was wrong and out of line. She never should have called you that…..I am sorry you were not catching my drift when I mentioned that. Name calling is ridiculous. Yes, and you are is You’re 😀 Love the comment about Crap… Please keep your loved ones close and do not think I was trying to fight with you…but there certainly, may be, some things that I wrote that you did not know Josh and his musicians do. And, again I can not wait to HEAR Ms Hill. I won’t judge or go by what someone else tells me about her. I just know she is in good company that could lead her to a very wonderful and serious career.

      • John Landsberg says:

        I’m sorry, Queen, I DID totally miss that. Even our resident hater thought you were after me!
        Are you coming to KC for the show? Feel free to find me at
        Well talk in more detail!

  7. Queen Mary (Like the big fat ship) says:

    Nope no Kansas City for me. Did it once, not again ~ especially with your local haters that will protesting outside, I am totally capable of seriously injuring them. I will spend my money in Minneapolis. The Target center is on the same corner (kiddie corner) from where Prince debuted and filmed Purple Rain. No haters in Minneapolis, just a bunch of crazy Vikings Fans!! Our Super New Event Center will be open next fall. Then, my money can stay here and take care of things in my state. Lincoln’s new center is fantastic….they sold out Buble` and the Eagles. Just hope someone is coming around in 2014, Il Divo should be…but we don’t know yet. With our luck we will get Bieber and Miley and tractor shows!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is sarcasm. It would be nice to meet you sometime and talk over a meal. My friend Jodi is attending the KC show, then hitting Keith Urban in Omaha I think, then back here where we will hop into my car and go to MPL for Josh. She is concert crazy.

  8. paulwilsonkc says:

    By haters, if you mean the Fred Phelps clan; they get totally overlooked by us; it’s tired and worn out. Interesting point; Vince Gill played the Kauffman about 4 weeks ago, saw them when he pulled in. Climbed off the bus, walked out the gate and confronted them! The one guy looked like he’d mess his rompers! Gill said, “it’s a good thing you losers don’t have a sign out here about my wife!” as one of them asked how he could explain living “with another mans wife?”
    Two of the grand kids escaped, wrote a great book. It’s going to be super cool when Fred wakes up in hell, sentenced to an eternity of gay sex with Hilter!

  9. Queen Mary says:

    So, Paul, what did you think of the show down there in KC? Yes the HATERS are the Westboro “Baptist” Church although they are not a real church or acknowledged by any Baptist Church affiliation. I want to hear what you thought about the concert then, I will give you mine and really piss off a bunch of grobies – they may not let me have my fan club card anymore!

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      QM; it was better than I expected. Parts a little contrived and corny for my taste but no denying he has an amazing voice. Would I go again? Yeah, likely, to compare the two experiences.
      But for the demo he plays to, I doubt there’s an equal in their eyes. I’ve got the review up, go look at it.

  10. Queen Mary says:

    Damn! I wrote a very long and rather scathing review of the concert I attended…I just can not type it all again…the system did not take it…I didn’t swear or anything. Anyhow, at best I would give the concert what I saw a C- at best (on Josh) the band was fabulous A+ and Judith was good but needs to grow, but isn’t that the point. She was very good in the duet of “The Prayer.”

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Queen, I was disappointed in Judith. She’s missing a breadth and depth to her voice. Not as rich and accomplished as a Beyonce, but give her props, she’s up there doin it.
      Since it was the first time I exposed myself to Groban (that was for the Phelps crowd), I have no basis to compare to. I found it all together adequate.

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