Anyway, he started out with You Are Loved (Don't Give Up) -- which started with the curtain down; then the curtain went up and he rose up out from beneath the stage -- then went straight into Mai. Awake was included in the set list -- hurray! -- whereas apparently it's been an encore at other venues, and our encores were Canto Alla Vita and You Raise Me Up (exactly what I was hoping for!). The only song I really missed was my favorite, Oceano... but oh well, maybe next time. The stage had raised platforms at either end to get him closer to the audience in the risers, and there was an orchestra behind him, at the back of the stage. The band was incredible, especially Tariqh (big muscular black guitar player with a big diamond earring) and the violinist, Lucia. She really captivated the whole audience in a way I can't explain -- she was barefoot, wearing a plain black dress with a slit up the side, with her hair hanging loose -- but was so 'into' her music it was visible on her face that she was somewhere else the entire time she was playing. I've never seen a musician look like that. Her whole body moved with the bow, totally focused on producing the sound, and when she did her solo -- Kashmir by Def Leppard -- she was so into it that she broke what seemed like half the strings on her bow. She was incredible.
Anyway, while Lucia did her solo, Josh disappeared, then appeared again, singing, up in the risers behind me on my left. He walked down the stairs, shaking people's hands and such, then came down through the floor seats, on my side of the aisle! I had two empty seats next to me, and just two people beyond that, so I was able to stand up and shove down there and get my hand out into the aisle. The security guards were hurrying him along, forming a cordon in front of and behind him, but he kept stopping, making the guards wait for him and giving everyone a little more time with him up close. I was able to brush my hand along his, which made me happy. He went back up on stage from there and continued with the rest of the concert, stopping between songs for commentary, jokes, and the like. He's a really funny guy... took a drink of water and stage-whispered, "This isn't water!", stepped onto the piano bench and rode it up like an elevator as the piano rose out of the floor, hugged a lady in the audience who had a sign with 'My Husband Says It's OK For You To Hug Me' (he said, "That's the first time I've ever had permission!") and even brought some young girls up to stand around him as he sat on the edge of the stage (one even got to sit next to him!) while he sang "Not While I'm Around" (a song from Sweeney Todd). He finished by coming out in a Carolina Hurricanes jersey and singing "You Raise Me Up", inserting 'Raleigh' into the end of the song.
Afterwards, I met up with Liz (who'd been sitting in the cheap seats with some friends) and we found the bathroom, bought her a T-shirt, and walked around the stadium until we found the area where the buses were parked. There were about 70 people waiting for Josh to come out, even though one of the bodyguards had already said "He's not coming out anymore" -- we all knew that was just to clear out the gullible ones. Another bodyguard walked around a few minutes later, stopped in front of us, and said in a low voice, "If he comes out -- IF he comes out --" and held up one finger, "ONE thing to sign. No posing for pictures, none of that. You can take pictures of him, but ONE thing to sign, and no posing." Well, we all knew that meant he was definitely coming out, and sure enough, his bus pulled up past us like it was going to leave, but then it stopped and -- even though we were on the wrong side of the bus, we could tell by the screaming -- he got off!
He started with the people on the far side, but he worked around to us pretty quickly. Some girls next to me started singing, "When You Say You Love Me", and we all joined in. He went along the line, and when he got to me, he signed my Awake album cover (with the traditional curly-haired smiley face), and looked right at me and smiled. What a great smile! Liz and I asked if we could have a hug, and he said, "Oh, double hug, double hug," and hugged us both together. Liz whispered, "You're beautiful," and he said, "You are too, thank you!" I said, "Thank you so much for everything, Josh!" and he said, "You're welcome!"
The two of us walked away, repeating, "Did that just happen?" "Are you kidding me?" "We just ******* hugged Josh Groban!" Both of us got on the phone to call everyone we knew, and ended up walking in a full circle around the arena before we found the car, because we were so dazed. I was so impressed that after putting on such a great show, he would just come out and put himself down on our level, in the middle of us all like that, hugging and smiling and making conversation like we were his 70 best friends in the world. He's got a 'genuineness' about him, a humility that few celebrities possess... hope he can hang onto that as his star rises.
Yeah... it was a good night! :)