Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, played host to musician Josh Groban‘s latest stop along his summer Harmony Tour on Saturday night. Joining the multi-Grammy-nominated Groban were special guests, singer-songwriter Eleri Ward, violinist/singer Lucia Micarelli, and the legendary New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
With a posted capacity of nearly 7,000, this summer-months-only outdoor facility was opened back in 1944 and has been decreed as “Atlanta’s Oldest Outdoor Music Venue.” It is also worth mentioning that for most shows at this amphitheatre, the orchestra section and pit are usually set up with tables rather than rows of chairs. Groban’s concert had the chairs arrangement, otherwise known as a “rock” setup, which was seemingly a small social media gripe among his more ardent Facebook fans who preferred tables.
Starting the unpleasantly humid evening off at 7:00pm with just her acoustic guitar in hand was New York-based singer-songwriter Eleri Ward. While conducting pre-show research, I read that Ward described her sound “as a lovechild between Sara Bareilles, Dua Lipa, and Maggie Rogers,” but it was her indie-folk TikTok reworkings of musical theater songs by the late Stephen Sondheim – specifically “Johanna (Reprisal)” (video below) from the musical Sweeney Todd – that ultimately changed the trajectory of her musical career. Groban would later comment during his set that he was captured by the quality of her voice when he visited her in a New York City club, which was what lead to his invitation for Ward join this summer tour. Ward had a quick 4-song, 20-minute set in front of the early crowd, but she impressed them with her talent, and left the stage with an inspiring message that likely exemplified her continued personal journey – “follow your bliss.”
Following a quick turnover, the gentlemen of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band took the amphitheatre stage. Having actually been to Preservation Hall in New Orleans to see the band play to its more typical, intimate French Quarter audience of only around 100 admissions per show, I was curious to see if their performance would translate in a bigger venue. I can emphatically report that not only was their set entertaining, but the acoustics of the venue really accentuated the resonance of all the jazz instruments. To me, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band represents living history, and while I probably can’t name another song other than “When the Saints Go Marching In,” that in no way diminishes my appreciation and respect for the musical legacy they continue to perpetuate with each new audience.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Charlie Gabriel – Saxophone (tenor), Clarinet
Walter Harris – Drums, Percussion
Ronell Johnson – Trombone
Ben Jaffe – Bass (upright), Tuba, Percussion
Branden Lewis – Trumpet
Clint Maedgen – vocals , Saxophone (tenor), Percussion
Kyle Roussel – Piano, Wurlitzer, Organ
With the sun mercifully setting, Groban and his orchestra took the stage in front of a near-capacity crowd at precisely 8:40pm to the 1967 Frank Sinatra tune of “The World We Knew (Over and Over),” the first track off Groban’s 2020 album, Harmony. Produced by Bernie Herms, Steve Jordan, Tommee Profitt and Federico Vindver, Groban joked that releasing the album during a global pandemic was probably not the smartest idea, but he was grateful to finally be back in front of the Atlanta crowd.
Now I will readily admit that adult contemporary crooner music is not my typical flavor, but there was no denying how deep the emotional connection was between Groban and his audience. His charisma was on full display the entire night as he story-told personal anecdotes between songs, while also having direct conversations with fans when the moments presented themselves.
Speaking of songs, Groban’s setlist pulled from not only his originals, but from other artists he talked about admiring and respecting, including Sting (“Shape of my Heart”), Robbie Williams (“Angels”), Joni Mitchell (“Both Sides Now”), and Peter Gabriel (“The Book of Love”). He commented that “Both Sides Now” was reflective of giving a “sense of perspective” and a “tool belt of wisdom” for the world today, while subsequently giving an engaged couple in the first few rows some comedic relationship grief before performing “The Book of Love.”
It is worth noting that Groban also carved time out mid-set to showcase violinist/singer Lucia Micarelli. Micarelli, donning a sleek red dress that accentuated her obvious pregnancy (which Groban kiddingly suggested he was going to give her future 10-year-old a touring contract), performed a mind-boggling solo. My grandfather loved the violin, and I have wonderful memories of sitting in his study as a young boy listening to him play the beautifully difficult instrument. Micarelli’s playing pierced through the night, backed by the choir of cricket songs echoing throughout the surrounding Chastain Park woods.
The “eclectic night of music” (as Groban anointed it) concluded with arguably his greatest hit, a performance of the Secret Garden composition “You Raised Me up,” (video below) followed by a moving encore rendition of “The Impossible Dream” from the musical, “Man of La Mancha.”
1.) The World We Knew (Over and Over) (Frank Sinatra cover)
2.) Shape of My Heart (Sting cover)
3.) Angels (Robbie Williams cover)
4.) February Song
6.) She (Charles Aznavour cover)
7.) Lucia Micarelli violin solo
8.) Cinema Paradiso
9.) Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell cover)
10.) Alla luce del sole
11.) The Book of Love (Peter Gabriel cover)
12.) How Do I Reach You (The Last Veil)
13.) Celebrate Me Home (Kenny Loggins cover)
14.) Not While I’m Around (Stephen Sondheim cover)
16.) The Fullest
17.) You Raise Me Up (Secret Garden cover)
18.) The Impossible Dream (Mitch Leigh cover)
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Elliott is a music photographer covering shows in Atlanta, Georgia, and the surrounding area. The highlight of his photography career was back in the early ’90s, when he sold Neil Diamond the rights to his negatives from a show and then purchased a set of tires for his 1979 280ZX during college with the money.