Josh Groban is currently touring in support of his 2013 album, "All That Echoes," on his In The Round tour. On Sunday, October 20, he returned to the United Center in Chicago with Judith Hill as direct support.
Judith Hill is best known for her participation in the fourth season of The Voice. Though she did not go on to win the competition, she was quickly recognized as a vocal talent. She was a natural choice to open the show, having contributed backing vocals on three songs for Groban's latest effort. She commenced with an impressive a cappella opening to "I'll Be There" as a tribute to Michael Jackson, before sitting down at a piano.
"I want to share this song with you," prefaced Hill, "I wrote it at a time when I was down and out and it was encouraging for me." She performed "Beautiful Life" on piano, easily winning over the packed United Center crowd by the end of her second song. She utilized the "in the round" setting and a full entourage including a pair of backup singers, percussion and guitarists joined in for the remainder of her 30-minute set.
Hill's debut album is slated for release in early 2014. She is also highlighted in the forthcoming film "20 Feet from Stardom" which presents the story of a number of backup singers who have performed behind some of music's greatest vocalists.
When the lights dimmed just after 8:30 p.m., a single violin broke the silence. Four members of Groban's band were positioned amongst the crowd, each taking their turn as they were independently lit from above. The result was a stunning image and a touch of intimacy within the cavernous United Center. Groban soon emerged and took his position at the center of the arena to perform "Brave."
Groban continued with music from the new album, playing "False Alarms" while also joking with the crowd between songs. He thanked the fans for their support, noting his recent appearance at Ravinia for his previous visit to Chicago.
Judith Hill returned to the stage to join Groban on "Remember When It Rained" and again for "The Prayer." The duo had a natural chemistry on stage and an obvious mutual adoration for the abilities of one another. They weren't the only stars in the building. Midway through his show, Groban left the stage and his band performed an impressive instrumental that included Aerosmith's "Dream On."
He also took time to answer some questions from the audience. Groban joked, "Some of you might be seeing me here for the first time. Having been dragged here by your girlfriend, your wife, or [pause] your grandma." He personally addressed the fans who had Tweeted questions before the show, calling them out by name. That led to some voice impersonations of Stewie from Family Guy and Ralph Wiggam from The Simpsons when asked which cartoon character best represents his personality.
Groban performed an inspiring, two-hour set. The combination of personal musings between songs and phenomenal musicianship simply added to the night's entertainment.
Remaining Josh Groban / Judith Hill tour dates:
22 - Grand Rapids, Mich. @ Van Andel Arena
23 - Detroit, Mich. @ The Palace of Auburn Hills
25 - Toronto, Ont. @ Air Canada Centre
27 - Montreal, Q.C. @ Bell Centre
28 - Boston, Mass. @ TD Garden
30 - Newark, N.J. @ Prudential Center
1 - State College, Pa. @ State Theater (headline show)
2 - Pittsburgh, Pa. @ CONSOL Energy Center
3 - Philadelphia, Pa. @ Wells Fargo Center
4 - Annapolis, Md. @ Rams Head On Stage (headline show)
6 - Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. @ BB&T Center
8 - Tampa, Fla. @ Tampa Bay Times Forum
9 - Orlando, Fla. @ Amway Center
12 - Houston, Texas @ Toyota Center
13 - Dallas, Texas @ American Airlines Center
4 - San Francisco, Calif. @ San Francisco War Memorial Opera - Glide Holiday Celebration