Parsley and two hours of bliss

It is with quite a bit of sadness that I write my final report this year (and probably, tour). Seeing Josh Groban three times in a month is something I seriously never thought would happen. Never, ever. Ever. My financial situation places me somewhere safe, I can afford many luxuries, but four years ago little did I suspect that the ease with which I got to see him for the first time, mere weeks after I first heard his voice would be the forecast of something even more incredible. Three concerts in four weeks’ time. To say that I’m fortunate simply doesn’t cover it.

Maybe the fact that this was my last time seeing Josh for a long time prompts me to say, this was the best concert of his that I’ve been to. But maybe it was the gigantic speaker hanging right above our heads that transmitted every sound of his, and every jingle, every beat and every sigh of every instrument as clearly as if we heard every musician individually. Maybe it was the audience: crazy but polite, standing in huge numbers at the backs of the stalls and circle, many middle-aged people, many, many, many, many. Many. There was so much love, there were hundreds of glow-sticks, there was dancing, there were standing ovations.

Maybe I feel that this was the best concert of his I’ve been to because I was close enough to follow his every move, every shift in his facial expressions, but far enough to appreciate the incredibly well-organized and yet spontaneous collaboration of the musicians on stage. Maybe it was because of “If I walk away” that he sang, something I never hoped for. Yet another gem from his brilliant “Illuminations” album, it sounded flawless and sincere, and now we know first hand what it’s about: family and friends, the ones he can rely on. After “Awake”, this is the most beautifully sung gratitude I have ever heard by anyone.

Maybe this was the best concert of his I’ve ever been to because the sound of the music was simply immaculate, with possibly just one or two notes off-key. Maybe it was because Josh was so funny I almost burst into tears again. We found out that in the event of a zombie apocalypse he would probably start singing to soften the zombies. We also discovered that he thinks he’s bad at flirting, a reason why he’s still single. We heard him sing “You raise me up” in his Elmo voice. We found out that his sophistication in music is not matched in the realm of colours: what he had no name for was simply “pink”. And he admitted that if he ever got the opportunity to turn into a woman for one day, he would take it. Because then he could walk into one of the Ladies’ room at the two sides of the Hammersmith Apollo that he was so distracted by, and also because he feels quite limited as a man: “you guys need us for a number of things but most of the time, you don’t need us at all”. And this half-joking, half-serious statement of his warms my heart to the core.

Maybe this was his best concert ever because he was incredibly polite with the middle-aged couple, wed for 32 years, whom he seated on the inflatable couch while he sang his favourite cheating song, “Broken vow”. Maybe it was because afterwards, when he sang “Per te”, the man was mouthing the words to the song, and he kept looking at his wife. It was so touching, and yet, she missed the moment, because she was entranced with Josh. I felt for him and I completely understood her.

Maybe this was by far the best of his concerts I have ever been to because when he started singing, his voice exploded above my head from the giant speaker, I looked up, I saw the lights: the manifestations of that divine voice, sent from up above, literally. It was the voice of God and angels and well-meaning spirits and everything and everyone that is present in our lives to help. That voice, accompanied by brilliant musicians kept me in a cocoon of love for two hours straight. Each minute was a musical delight, my soul was floating on a sea of serenity. Without any expectations or demands, I gave myself over to this unique delight, something that cannot be matched. If you ever drank hot liquid creamy chocolate, you might suspect what his voice sounds like. If you ever smelt the scent of a bunch of roses imbued with the beauty of dew and sunset, you could fathom what his voice sounds like. If you ever cried at something beautiful, this might be the way his voice makes you feel. If there is something that makes you wonder at the incredible events in your life, if there is something you cannot explain, the sensation you experience while he sings is perhaps similar. Of all the delights and joys and beauty of this world, somehow this young man’s voice contains the best parts of it all, a concentrated potion of perfect immortality. Alchemists could easily say, “we found it, the source, the gist, the essence”. I have seen so many people raised up by this young man’s personality and musical presence. In London last night, people of all ages and both genders embraced Josh’s beauty like it was something precious. They are right. It is. I don’t know exactly why, and how, but it is. I’ve seen him many times, and each time, he gives me something new. Whether it’s new jokes, or a new face, or a new insight into his soul, he always surprises me, lets me in further, a small inch further each time. Each time, the door is cracked a little bit wider, and the light hidden behind this door gets brighter and brighter. Each time, I get to see him as more and more human, whether it’s an honest gesture or a candid remark hidden amidst his jokes, or the way he wipes his perspired brow, or the way he smiles, so tired but grateful, not shiny and new and omnipotent but weak and humble and a little sad after the encore that is never enough and he has to come back for more, or the way he adopts a perfect smile after the show when he comes out for signing, the way he looks at everyone with those chocolate eyes. He truly cares for his fans and yet he is guarding his heart from us: what could prove more eloquently that he is fragile and needs our support? The distance he must maintain is to ensure he does not go crazy, that his heart stays intact, that he can continue giving us, more, and more, and more. I hope with all my heart that everyone will understand this and we will keep treating him with respect. The relationship between him and us is beautiful but delicate, one bad move and the stem will break, the petals will fall, the flower of this incredible love will wither.

Was there anything I didn’t like last night? Yes, there was. Someone recording and taking photos non-stop sitting in front of a lady who thus was unable to see Josh most of the time. They were polite enough not to say a word to the person, but I saw their discomfort. About two thirds into the show I asked the person to stop recording and let those sitting behind her see. The lady next to me was so grateful and I felt like hugging her, stranger and all. We need to treat each other with respect also. Loving Josh is easy, he just gives all the time, he’s our Leader, our Light, but loving his followers is the hard part: we err, we blunder, we even commit crimes against each other. We hate each other in the name of loving Josh, we think our way of loving him is better than someone else’s. Does any of this ring a bell? We must forgive and love the sinner as well as the one who inspires us to do good.

After seeing him in Paris I thought, “I can do without him fine, I’ve seen him more than once, he can also get boring after a while”. Big, big delusion. If I could do without him just fine, I wouldn’t feel this urge to buy tickets to Manchester or Dublin. If I had gotten my fill of Josh, I wouldn’t be recalling the incredible sound of “Voce existe em mim” and “Alla luce” and “Machine” right now. The truth is, I have no idea how one can get tired of this voice. I tried, I thought three times was the charm, maybe I can get him out of my system. But then he went and sang even more incredibly than a week ago, and he sang something even more beautiful than a week ago, and he was even funnier than a week ago. Does this cup of delight ever get empty?

The personal circumstances of this brief trip to London are also incredible. Almost exactly two years ago I travelled to the same city to meet up with some of my best friends and spend an evening together at a rock concert. It turned out to be one of the most amazing concerts of my life, true, brought by the warm-up band that I had never heard of before. More than that, it was a wonderful, twisted, flawed and yet meaningful encounter between friends, a truly life-altering event: we squabbled, we misunderstood and even hated each other a little bit. In the aftermath, some of our friendships are over, and some others are stronger than before. The hotel we went to that night was the same hotel that I passed yesterday afternoon while looking for our current accommodation. I also passed the very concert hall where The Mexicolas fascinated me so much two years ago in October. This time, Joshua Radin was playing, another of my favourite Joshuas, alas, the other curly-haired one, the one with the slightly more potent voice was calling me, otherwise Mr Radin would have seen me among his fans at the O2, for sure.

I went to London yesterday with an amazing person and I got to show her a little bit of the place, I showed her fish & chips and she showed me a trick to kill the taste of onion: fresh parsley. We laughed so much, we talked even more. Next to her, I was able to be myself, I didn’t have to pretend, and I hope she felt the same way.

The Hammersmith Apollo is definitely one of the craziest venues I’ve ever been to. It eats celebrities for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it spits them out well-digested. At eight, the name Josh Groban was on the front of the building, at eleven after show, the name of the performer of the next day. One famous performer down, the next three hundred and sixty-four to go. For the Apollo, Josh Groban was but a mere commodity and a money-making opportunity, a show for which thousands of people queued up before the building, a long snake of people waving its way around, eating its way toward the inside of the building. For us, his fans, Josh Groban is the one that brings down the stars each time he sings. The one many of us would happily die for. May we never become part of the industry, may we always keep in mind that we are the hunter and the hunted at the same time.

I’m filled to the brim with gratitude and wonder at this beautiful young man. God only knows why He sent him into my life, whether I deserve him or not. I’m past these questions. I’m just grateful. Period.

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