Pentatonix (PTX) are easily the most successful and biggest acapella group worldwide. PTX played the Five Point Amphitheater in Irvine on September 11th for a night of originals and their incredible covers. The three founding members are Scott Hoying (Baritone), Kristin Maldonado (Soprano), and Mitch Grassi (Tenor) who were 20-21 when forming the group 12 years ago.
PTX became the first acapella group to win a GRAMMY for Best arrangement instrumental, or acapella in 2015 and won again in 2016. PTX also won for a third year in the row, but for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. PTX performed at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2014 honoring Tom Hanks. PTX also had the highest charting holiday album for a group in 54 years. PTX has had two number one albums. Hoying, Maldonado, Grassi, beatboxer Kevin Olusola, and vocal bassist Avi Kaplan competed in Sing-Off for their chance to meet the cast of Glee and were the winners of season three. In 2017 Kaplan departed the group and Matt Sallee has been handling the bass vocals since. The next 10 years the group would find major success. PTX received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February this year. Last year they played the Hollywood Bowl with a choir and cellos on certain songs with Glee’s Darren Criss as the opener. This time around Country Artist Lauren Alaina and vocal group Citizen Queen opened.
Before PTX took the stage an intro video played of the members. Out came PTX on a riser for Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and walked down to the stage following with “I Rise.” There were a few medleys during the show and the second one was “Daft Punk” which they released nine years ago. “Daft Punk” is a medley of cherished Daft Punk songs 90’s kids grew up on like “Around the World,” “One More Time,” “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” to a song 00’s kids grew up on like “Get Lucky.” The video for “Daft Punk” has nearly 400 million views on YouTube. Hoying then shared a story of marrying his partner Mark a month earlier and how Lauren Alaina was trying to surprise Mark from behind and ended up kissing him by accident. PTX brought Alaina out to perform Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” as a fitting song for that moment.
After a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep,” Hoying, being a big Broadway fan, shared how he’s seen Wicked a number of times and wanted to perform the opening number “No One Mourns the Wicked” with the audience. Hoying broke the audience up and had each section sing a verse then they did all combined.
A capella is all vocals with no instruments, however Olusola did something quite unique playing cello and beatboxing. Hoying shared how the group was going to perform on Sing-off and they needed a beat boxer still and by a YouTube search he found Olusola and invited him to join the group. It was now Olusola’s turn to be featured and show his combination of cello playing and beatboxing which he did to his song Julie-O followed by Bach’s “Cello Suite no. 1.” Sallee joined in on drums for “Kevin’s 5th of Beethoven.”
The Cranberries “Dreams” would be performed as a trio of the three founders then the whole group would perform Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” from A Star is Born. The show had a few sing–a-long parts and Olusola and Sallee took over for two medleys of songs across different genres from the 60’s-90’s. The first Kevin and Matt sing-a-long was Ain’t No Mountain High Enough / Sweet Caroline / I Want It That Way / Banana Boat (Day-O) / This Is How We Do It / The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air / Drop It Like It’s Hot with the them trading off verses with the audience. The second medley would be rock anthems, Don’t Stop Believin’ / Livin’ on a Prayer / You Give Love A Bad Name / We Will Rock You.
Kevin and Matt’s sing-a-long consisted of songs for fans of all ages like The Temptations “My Girl,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” Backstreet Boys “I Want it That Way,” Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It,” Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme, and Snoop Dogg’s “Drop it Like it’s Hot.” The rest of the group rejoined for another sing-a-long of their “90’s dance medley” released during the Covid-19 pandemic which includes hits all 90’s kids remember from artists that don’t perform too often at least in the U.S. like La Bouche, Haddaway, Alice Deejay, Snap!, Ace of Base, Vengaboys, Cascade, Eiffel 65 to major artists still around like Jennifer Lopez and Cher.
The final song before the encore was none other than Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” which there has been over 300 versions of but the most famous would probably be Jeff Buckley’s. “Hallelujah.” The last time PTX had performed this song in the L.A. area it was sung just 2 days prior at the KIA Forum by Violet Grohl as the first song of the Taylor Hawkins’ Tribute Concert. The encore was The Rescues’ “My Heart With You” followed by one of the greatest songs for a sing-a-along and made its way into pop culture in Wayne’s World. It was none other than Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Words and photos by Alex Kluft