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NEW YORK — The only thing harder than winning a reality singing competition is becoming a successful musician after doing so — and the odds of success are much smaller when that television show is NBC’s recently revived a cappella experiment, The Sing-Off.
The electro-infused quintet opened their 90-minute setlist from behind a translucent white sheet, as spotlights danced over their faces for their high-energy Daft Punk medley opener. The sheet then dropped away to reveal the casually dressed singers, dancing and jumping atop a bare set of ramps and stairs and a fabric, blacklight-friendly PTX graphic — and not a single instrument in sight.
The group took turns chatting with the audience and sharing their origin tale in stages and song: harmonic trio Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi and Kirstin Maldonado first bonded as choir nerds in Texas (Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” which they covered in high school) and then recruited bass Avi Kaplan and beatboxer Kevin Olusola to try out for The Sing-Off (The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” a competition song). With the “evolution of Pentatonix” story complete onstage, the wrinkled logo behind them was discarded, spotlighting their now-official logo – a visual off-shoot of a piano, which Grassi later “played” to get the note for a song.
With their voices stronger than ever, the group balanced their repertoire with their Sing-Off numbers (Katy Perry’s “E.T.” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” with the choreography seen on the show) and original songs (“Hey Momma,” “Love Again,” “Natural Disaster”), as well as their viral videos (“Royals,” with the opening phrases of Lorde’s “Team”), complete with a live version of the plug that comes at the end of each upload, touting Twitter handles and YouTube subscribe buttons along with merchandise tables and albums for sale. They impressively and effortlessly performed both “Evolution of Music” and “Evolution of Beyonce,” with Hoying shouting afterward, “Thank you for supporting our obsession with Beyonce!” and later, “You’re a choir of Beyonce’s, which is the highest compliment one can give.”
Throughout the show, solo moments by bass Kaplan and beatboxer Olusola triggered the loudest audience roars – and the most “I love you’s” from female fans – so a segment spotlighting what Sing-Off judge Shawn Stockman calls the group’s “meat and potatoes” section was a crowd-pleaser. Kaplan indulged the theater with a sampling of overtone singing (singing two notes at once), instructing the audience to “listen to the Mariah Carey whistle tones you hear behind me.” Olusola then sat down with his cello for an original song “Renegade,” in which he beatboxes and plays simultaneously, immediately earning a standing ovation before the group covered A Great Big World’s “Say Something.”
While the concert had plenty of high notes, some numbers fell flat: the only PTX, Vol 1 track “Aha!” felt included by obligation, and was introduced as “the perfect song for a Lord of the Rings fight scene — if you close your eyes during this song you will be transported straight to Middle Earth.” And the emotional, off-mic rendition of their original “Run to You” couldn’t accurately travel to the back rows of the Beacon’s upper balcony.
Still, Pentatonix closed the final show of their tour with a confetti-drenched “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, followed by an encore with the duo’s “Thrift Shop” and fun.’s “We Are Young.” By the end, most of the group appeared depleted of energy — rightly so, with no instruments onstage to lean on — with the exception of Grassi, whose animated facial expressions remained endless until the final note. Altogether, the show was crowd-pleasing proof of Pentatonix’ evolution since The Sing-Off, illustrating what Maldonado told the audience between songs: “It’s been three years, and we’re not terrified anymore — we promise.”
Hey Momma/Hit the Road Jack
Video Killed the Radio Star
Evolution of Beyonce
I Need Your Love
Royals, team intro
Evolution of Music
Let’s Get It On
Run to You
Can’t Hold Us
We Are Young
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