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Pentatonix, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire - music review
American a cappella group Pentatonix make the human voice into a remarkable instrument


Thirty years on from the sideburns and soaring harmonies of chart-toppers The Flying Pickets, a cappella music is back thanks to US group Pentatonix. While they haven’t yet troubled the British charts, hundreds of millions of YouTube views of their cover versions ensured this show was a sell-out.

If you didn’t know Pentatonix had won a TV talent series (US contest The Sing-Off) you could probably tell from the eager-to-please Daft Punk medley opener. A breathless Kirstie Maldonado sang lead while her four fellow vocalists created familiar textures including whooshing synths and robotic vocoder.

It was the same story for the Beyoncé selection, on which Texan group leader Scott Hoying made a convincing Mrs Carter during an exhausting R&B mélange.

Away from the YouTube fodder, the show got more interesting with their puffing rhythms on Video Killed the Radio Star and the baroque humming of Aha! by Imogen Heap.

Despite the instrument-free manifesto, Kevin Olusola was at one point allowed to play cello while beatboxing, a bizarre combination that caused some audience confusion. While half the room cheered, the rest shushed them as if it were a classical concert hall.

The group managed to unite this crowd with their shared, swooping vocals on Lorde’s Royals and there was some entertaining serenading of a screaming fan by Avi Kaplan doing his best Barry White impression.

Pentatonix make the human voice into a remarkable instrument but it was their more expressive moments on stage that made them memorable.