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Pentatonix found its way home for a tour closer, and we can still hear the screams

Mar. 30, 2015 7:38am

The hit-making a capella group Pentatonix ended its U.S. headlining tour on Sunday night with a sold out show at Verizon Theater, just a few miles from where three of its singers graduated from high school. Understandably, Arlington Martin High grads Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi and Kirstin Maldonado received a hero's welcome when they hit the stage.

Screams from the all-ages crowd became piercing at times when the three lead singers and their lower-register bandmates Kevin Olusola (the beatboxer) and Avi Kaplan (the bass) blended voices on original songs and covers of pop hits.

Hoying was the first to give a shoutout to his hometown crowd, after the group opened with a version of Ariana Grande's "Problem" and continued to thrill with its supersize medley of Beyoncé tunes.

"We basically named our tour after this moment right now - 'On Our Way Home,'" Hoying said. "The energy is insane here; it's only been two songs and I'm already obsessed with you."

The feeling was no-doubt mutual in the packed theater - in addition to entire families clapping and singing along, we spotted large groups of outwardly giddy school kids wearing identical t-shirts. We'd imagine any Pentatonix concert to be a destination event for the choir and theater set.

Yet any one of the singing fivesome's 7.9 million YouTube subscribers can tell you that Pentatonix prides itself on mass appeal, putting its unique, instrument-free stamp on the most popular hits in the country. The abundant cover tunes gave Sunday's concert the vibe of a breakneck hit parade at times.

On top of Lady Gaga and 'Yoncé odes, we heard a mashup of Sam Smith singles, a thumping take on the EDM hit "Rather Be," the current Rihanna-Kanye collaboration "Four Five Seconds" and Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On." The latter was performed to comedic effect as Hoying and his bandmates took turns "seducing" a lady from the audience they brought on stage. It was all in cheeky fun.

To these ears, though, the lesser known covers and original songs gave Pentatonix better chances to shine as vocal arrangers (a skill for which they won their first Grammy earlier this year). Their take on Salaam Remi's "Love You Long Time" allowed the singers some space and gave listeners a clearer idea of how they come together.

While Grassi, Hoying and Maldonado capably handled the bulk of the lead parts throughout the evening, Kaplan did get to showcase his rich bass on the downtempo "Standing By." And the one instrument that made it on to the stage was Olusola's cello - he played it and beatboxed for a few minutes to give his groupmates a rest. Grassi's brassy tenor seemed to drive young fans in the standing-room pit up front the craziest.


With no need to make room for a band, most of the stage was occupied by a wide platform with several steps. The five singers made a point to spread out and use as much of their set as possible, and they even sang among the fans for a few chaotic moments.

The show's backdrop featured video projections both canned and live: its most functional moment came when clips of the group's meteoric rise played as they spoke about their journey. We saw the audition tape that started it all, the winning moment from The Sing-Off and the first YouTube video that helped Pentatonix land its current record deal. (No sneak-peek footage from the group's appearance in the upcoming Pitch Perfect sequel, in case you were wondering.)

Judging by the spirited singalong to "On My Way Home" near the end of the show, we wouldn't be surprised to see many of the same audience members show up to Gexa Energy Pavilion on August 30 when the group is scheduled to open for fellow North Texas pop sensation Kelly Clarkson. The obsession is real.