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Pentatonix shine a fresh light on a capella at Peabody show

March 20, 2014 10:27 am • By Kevin C. Johnson

Not much may be expected from acts who triumph on an occasional, second-tier TV singing contest like “The Sing-Off.”
But that shouldn’t be the case with the growing sensation that is Pentatonix, a young, five-member a capella group whose concert Wednesday night at Peabody Opera House was a fast sellout, and for good reason.

That a capella stuff can be a tough sell, perhaps labeled boring. Some may even compare the young group to something “Glee”-like (God forbid).

Pentatonix seems just the group to smash those concerns.

There were many great moments during the concert, but one moment stood out. In it, the group’s harmonious Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan, Kirstie Maldonado and Kevin Olusola proved most endearing.

It was about midway through the 90-minute concert when technical difficulties forced the group to take their a capella to a whole different level. The moment came right after “Love Again,” a song from the group’s “PTX, Vol. 2” EP, when the group realized all five microphones went out.

“This is really a capella,” Hoying could be heard saying faintly. The group members looked around, puzzled, then decided to forge ahead, asking the audience to be really quiet (something that’s tough for a St. Louis audience).

The room was so quiet one could hear a proverbial pin drop. The group sang their original ballad “Run to You” without amplification. “We’ve never done that before,” said Hoying, and it was magic.

“You do so many shows, but it’s those type of moments that really count,” Kaplan added.

But the group was truly winning long before then. Opening with a mashup of Daft Punk’s “One More Time” and “Get Lucky” the group titled “Daft Punk,” Pentatonix quickly showed it was stocked with secret weapons from Grassi’s crazy falsetto, Kaplan’s incredible bass voice and Olusola’s massive beatboxing.

“Hey Momma”/”Hit the Road Jack” and Lady Gaga featuring Beyoncé’s “Telephone” were among the songs reeling fans in early on. “Telephone” tipped the audience off to what was to come shortly; an extended, seamless medley of Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child that totaled about 20 songs in under 10 minutes.

Among the songs making the cut during this show-stopping segment were “Say My Name,” “Bootylicious,” “Crazy in Love,” “Baby Boy,” “Get Me Bodied,” “If I Were a Boy,” “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” “Love on Top” and “Halo.”

The band’s take on A Great Big World’s “Say Something” was another winner, though its take on Lorde’s “Royals” faltered.

“Renegade,” an original song written by Olusola, featured Olusola’s beatboxing coupled with his turn playing the cello. He was truly a one-man band.

“The Evolution of Music” was another mega medley, randomly taking fans through several decades of music that included popular hits from the Andrews Sisters, Ben E. King, the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé (really?), Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen.

The group, who closed with its takes on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” and Fun’s “We Are Young,” performed without an opening act, leading to an evening that ended early by concert standards.