In “The Sound of Music,” Julie Andrews taught the world about “do re mi.” According to her character, once you know the notes to sing, you can sing almost anything. On Sunday, the a cappella group Pentatonix gave such a unique musical performance that even Dame Andrews could not have predicted such musicality.
Pentatonix, the season three winners of NBC’s a cappella competition “The Sing-Off,” performed at the Pabst Theatre to a sold-out crowd this past Sunday. The group, originally from Arlington, Texas, comprises lead singer Scott Hoying, beatboxer Kevin Olusola, bassist Avi Kaplan, tenor Mitch Grassi and the lone female member, Kirstie Maldonado.
The name Pentatonix is derived from the pentatonic scale, a musical scale with five notes per octave, and as a five-member band, the group is like a pentatonic scale of its own.
Last Sunday’s performance began with a mash-up of Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” and “Save the World,” a perfect opening to set the tone of the evening. It was an energetic song that showcased the impressive vocals and arrangements. The opening featured precise choreography and electrifying lights that continued throughout the evening.
Following the smashing opener, the show continued with a set list full of original songs, tunes performed on “The Sing-Off” and various covers audiences might have recognized from the band’s popular YouTube channel. From current radio favorite “Thrift Shop” by American rapper Macklemore to the ’70s hit “Video Killed the Radio Star,” Pentatonix proved that not only can it perform songs from a variety of genres, but it can incorporate its own unique sound – a blend of pop, dubstep, R&B and electronic genres – into any song the group performs.
The members of the group each had an opportunity to seize the stage and showcase their own unique talents throughout the evening. Hoying led the group through most songs, displaying his impressive voice and soulful flair that defines the Pentatonix sound.
Mega tenor Mitch Grassi, sporting a baseball jacket and Ash Ketchum baseball cap, displayed his ridiculously high, ridiculously impressive voice with show-stopping solos, most notably in a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” I’ve never heard a person execute that high of a note with such precision, and with Grassi’s diva demeanor, you could almost believe it was Beyoncé up on that stage.
Kevin Olusola, a Yale graduate and fluent speaker of Mandarin Chinese, beatboxed his way through every song. If that was not an impressive enough resume, he gave the rest of the group members an extended break and treated the audience to a cello-beatboxing fusion performance. He may be one of the only people known to play cello and beatbox simultaneously, but Olusola did it so well that the combination of the two vastly different musical styles melded into a cohesive, enjoyable sound.
Olusola was not the only one of the group to indulge the audience in impressive musical skill. Avi Kaplan broke out into a Mongolian throat-song, a type of singing that involves producing two audible pitches at the same time.
And in one of my favorite moments of the night, Kaplan sang the “Song of the Lonely Mountains” from the most recent “Hobbit” film. As a “Lord of the Rings” mega-geek, I felt like I had been transported to Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole. Kaplan sounded exactly like a dwarf. With his deep and impressive voice, I would not have been surprised if he had sprouted a beard right on stage and shrunk a few feet.
Sadly, the only member of the group to not showcase her true talent was Kirstie Maldonado. At the beginning of the show, the group informed the audience that Maldonado was under the weather, which received a rousing standing ovation in support of her. Although she was sick, the performance itself did not suffer, and Maldonado even sang a few brief solos, including a moment in a cover of Nicki Minaj’s “Starships.”
The singing aside, what I was most impressed with was the passionate dedication of the Pentatonix fans. Before the show even started, the audience was cheering for the group to come onstage and continued the fervent appreciation with heartfelt, raucous congratulations after every song.
Pentatonix returned the gratification with numerous references to how they would not be where they are today without the support of their fans. Kaplan wrote and the group performed “Peaceful World,” a song written in appreciation of the dedication of the fans.
The group continued rewarding their fandom with a picture of the crowd that was plastered all over social media, and in one of the night’s most fun numbers, the group brought an audience member onstage and serenaded her with Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”
The night was full of high-level musical ability and audience passion. With its impressive take on a cappella music, Pentatonix defies the “do re mi” scale and sings on a musical level all its own.