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With five big voices, Pentatonix wins over Westcott Theater fans

By Mark Bialczak, The Post-Standard
on December 08, 2012 at 11:07 PM

Pentatonix beat-boxer deluxe Kevin Olusola stood before the capacity crowd of 600 or so happy voice-lovers at The Westcott Theater in Syracuse tonight and explained the essence behind the five singers.

Five fingers make a powerful hand. Five voices make a powerful song.

So it was. With Olusola and bass singer Avi Kaplan holding down the deep end and trio singers Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi and Kirstie Maldonado sharing the melody and leads, Pentatonix sounded every bit as good live in the old city theater as they did through the TV speakers while winning last year's edition of NBC a cappella competition series "The Sing-Off."

Better, at times, as the five performers used their voices to perform 90 minutes worth of pop and rock favorites.

The mixed-bag of fans -- plenty in their teens and 20s, the demographic of the performers, but some children and a lot of 30-and-above, too -- obviously relished hearing the songs that Pentatonix performed on the air while winning every week on hte show until earning the title.

"Video Killed the Radio Star," throbbed with energy. "Born to Be Wild" rocked the joint.

Surely, they are the kings and queen of covers, from then and now.

They invited a young woman on stage so the men could serenade her with Marvin Gaye's evergreen love song "Let's Get It On." They mashed up Justin Bieber and Katy Perry with "As Long as You Love Me/Wide Wake." And they sang a medley of this year's hottest songs put together over one night at the request of Katie Couric. You can see them blend the hits on Couric's show in Dec. 12, they proudly announced. Yes, "We Are Young" by Fun. is perfect for Pentatonix.

If anything, the five seemed more comfortable than they did on TV, without the pressure of the weekly elimination hanging over their heads.

They proved to be engaging storytellers when they took turns chatting between songs. Hoying is the de facto leader, so he had the honor of explaining how he, Grassi and Maldanado were choir nerds while growing up together in Arlington, Texas, telling of the fortunate move of watching YouTube clips to discover Olusola as a beat-boxing cellist and taking the recommendation of adding Kaplan from the band Fermata Nowhere to turn the trio into a quintet just before auditioning for "The Sing-Off."

A year after winning that series, they're still having fun singing and dancing together. A couple of strong original songs have worked their way into the repertoire. There's a holiday EP out now, too,

But the biggest thrills still cover from the hits, with show-stopper "Telephone" from Lady Gaga with Beyonce and the pulsing encore of Nicki Minaj's "Starships."

Opener Alexander Cardinale dropped a big swear word into his set when he had problems with a capo on his acoustic guitar. A mom yelled that their were children present. And they've heard that word, he declared.

Later, though, Cardinale spotted just how young a couple of fans were while looking at those close to the stage. He apologized to the mom for the swearing.

The crowd cheered him on, particularly his song "Traffic Lights," which has made it onto the soundtrack of a couple TV shows. "The CW loves it," Cardinale said.

The fans also took Cardinale up on his offer to tweet him during the show. He read a couple messages off his phone. The fans who'd sent them screamed. Welcome to concert-going these days.