Classical music singer Josh Groban hopes to make people laugh and cry in one show. (Olaf Heine)
When Josh Groban would migrate out to the satellite stage at the center of the arena on his last big tour, the energy there was different: The classical music singer suddenly felt vulnerable, since there was nowhere to hide, no big backdrop behind him to act as a security blanket.
And that made things exciting.
“I felt like there was a magic in the room every time we got on that stage,” says Groban, on the phone last month from his Los Angeles home, where he’d just returned after performing in Hyde Park in London. “You could tell the audience had switched into an entirely different focus and awareness of what was going on.”
Groban liked it so much he decided to pattern his new tour after that bit. His current outing, which hits The Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday, finds Groban performing in the round, with a stage at the center of the arena and fans seated 360 degrees around him. It’s a new wrinkle for the golden-voiced singer, who at 32 years old has sold some 26 million albums worldwide.
“It’s no nonsense,” says Groban, who remembers seeing Peter Gabriel in the round and has watched footage of Frank Sinatra performing in that style. “It’s basically just a really great way to get out there, feel the audience all around you, sing your best stuff, and allow for there to be a really intimate and special experience.”
That intimate and special experience comes at a time when Groban continues to expand his comfort zone professionally. Musically, he teamed with Green Day producer Rob Cavallo on his 2013 album “All That Echoes,” which along with new songs and standards included covers of songs by the Swell Season and Stevie Wonder. (The album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart, his third album to hit the chart’s top spot.)
And he continues to toil in the comedy world; along with parodying his serious image on late night talk shows, he has a role in the CBS sitcom “The Crazy Ones,” he recently filmed a cameo for “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and he appeared as a wryly sarcastic barista in the 2013 film “Coffee Town.”
“When you start out, there’s always a pressure to kind of, ‘Don’t tarnish the brand,’ or don’t go too far outside the box of what people view you as,” says Groban, who has been singing since fifth grade and who twice attended camp at Michigan’s Interlochen Center for the Arts in the late 1990s. “But every one of us has many different shades. For me, I am just as much of a serious person about my music as I am a very not serious person about myself.
“So I just thought, ‘Screw it, I’m going to show both sides, and if people are a little confused they can be a little confused,’ ” Groban says. “But ultimately you’d like to think that there are people out there that are like you. So you say OK, don’t be afraid to be weird. If I can make people laugh and cry in one evening, I feel like I’ve shown both sides of myself pretty accurately.”
Going forward, Groban says he has plenty he’s still looking to accomplish: The lifelong L.A. resident is hoping to do Broadway at one point; he wants to continue acting and says he’d love to do a film score. And he’s going to continue to tour and make albums.
“I’ve got a lot on my plate that I’d like to do,” Groban says. “Luckily, I have a lot of dreams left.”
7:30 p.m. Wednesday
The Palace of Auburn Hills
6 Championship Drive, Auburn Hills
Ticketmaster.com or (248) 377-0100