This concert combined joyous shrieks, music with no instruments, and a skilfully executed stage-show.
Pentatonix may not be a household name for many, but don’t tell that to the nearly sold out crowd at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday night. This five member, a cappella group consists of Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, Avi Kaplan, Kevin Olusola and Mitch Grassi, hailing from Arlington, Texas USA.
Their initial claim to fame journeyed via You Tube, performing cover songs with a style of their own, and since then, they’ve earned numbers awards and accolades, recorded five albums and have sold millions of records. A cappella groups have been around for a while, but this is far from an old school barber shop quartet sound. A modern spin, covering songs ranging in style from recent pop tracks to EDM and oddly enough, classical standards. Pentatonix is one of those groups that could sing the phone book backwards and it would sound wonderful.
What impressed me here though, was not only the vocal prowess of each member individually but the combination of the five voices was really something to experience. Although each possesses a contrasting style of their own, surprisingly they manage to blend phenomenally well.
Scott, one of the founding members, usually performing in the lead position, reminds me a bit of Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, in his looks and a few mannerisms but also in his vocal quality. He’s the tallest of the group, wearing white with the others in various black attire, usually in the center, for a balanced look, as they gracefully negotiated all parts of the stage.
Kirsten, the one women in the bunch, processes an ethereal angelic quality voice, and she nailed it when it was her turn in the spotlight, performing lead on the track “Water”.
Avi, donning a beard, dressed in a leather jacket and a backwards baseball cap, is gifted with a shockingly deep voice, reminding me of Jon “Bowzer” Bauman of the band, “Sha Na Na”.
With four male voices, you’d might expect the sound to be heavily weighted towards the boys, but Mitch’s voice in closer akin to the quality you’d hear from a women so it rounded things out nicely. He hit some high notes throughout the evening that simply knocked the socks off the crowd, more of and aspiring sound you expect from a pop singer like Ariana Grande.
Finally, Kevin provided the backbone of the overall sound, beatboxing for much of the show, maintaining a background of steady synthesised sounds. They not only harmonised well, but with their a cappella special effect skills, at times, you’d swear there was a band backing them up.
Nothing to write home about, as far as the lighting goes or stage effects, basically adequate. Perhaps a conscience choice, it was their voices that carried the show here, not a lot of pomp required.
Certainly well choreographed, at times it even seemed the five all moved as one. Smoothly covering the stage area, occasionally switching positions in line, negotiating stairs elegantly or an elevated platform, while even sitting down for a couple of tracks to switch up the look. They also graciously invited five elated fans up on stage to help out with a song.
The setlist was an unusual mix of music, from pop covers to classics to original material that kept things flowing with a natural ease. The Daft Punk song was a crowd favourite, evident from the ear-piecing joyous shrieks from the fans.
Another crowd pleaser and one of mine too, was when Kevin took center stage with his cello as the others took a break. He wowed the audience performing a song with an original spin, amazingly combining his beatbox vocals with a traditional classical piece, something you don’t hear everyday.
I was also impressed with the track that was part of their encore, “Light in the Hallway”, where they asked the crowd to be super quiet so they could sing without using their handheld microphones, impressive indeed. It may seem odd to some folks to attend a concert where there are basically no musical instruments, other than the performers voice themselves. But keep an open mind and check out this group, they may just win you over regardless of what style or genre of music you prefer.