Trifecta of talent
Pentatonix, Calum Scott and Echosmith performed at BB&T Pavilion
By Samantha Bambino
Some things just keep getting better over time. Take, for example, the acapella powerhouse group, Pentatonix. Since winning NBC’s The Sing-Off in 2011, PTX has taken the music industry by storm, winning three Grammy Awards, selling nearly 10 million albums worldwide, and hosting two holiday specials. Now, PTX is traveling the country throughout the summer on its biggest tour to date, which hit BB&T Pavilion earlier this month.
Even before entering the arena, one thing was clear — anyone and everyone can be a “Pentaholic.” Husbands and wives in their 60s lounged on beach chairs in the parking lot, tailgating the show with cold beers in hand; elementary-aged kids sporting hand-painted PTX T-shirts tugged at their parents’ hands, anxious to get a front row spot in the pit; and millennials arrived with friends and significant others, excited for an evening of quality entertainment.
At 6:45 p.m., the concert kicked off with Calum Scott, the U.K. singer-writer whom The Times introduced readers to in its Aug. 8 issue. Scott didn’t need or want any sort of elaborate introduction. In fact, the massive backdrop bearing his face was a bit much for the breakout artist, who is still learning to adapt to the spotlight. He simply strolled onto the stage, plastic water bottle in hand, to inform early-arrivers he’d be singing for them.
Scott exuded the air of your average, unassuming guy, laughing easily and joking about his self-described “matador” pants, which had white stripes running down each leg. But as soon as he opened his mouth to begin “Come Back Home,” a track off his debut album Only Human, it was clear Scott’s talent is no joke.
The 29-year-old’s chillingly powerful voice shot through the arena, halting attendees in their tracks mid-snack run. Though BB&T was hardly halfway filled at this point, it made no difference to Scott, who sang with such intense passion, one would think his life depended on it.
As more of the crowd began to trickle in, Scott transitioned into “Hotel Room” and “Rhythm Inside,” followed by “You are the Reason.” During “No Matter What,” an unreleased emotional ode to his mother’s love and acceptance after he told her he was gay, Scott teared up as he sang, “She wrapped her arms around me, said ‘don’t try to be what you’re not.’” Scott finished his all-too-brief set with the Robyn cover “Dancing on My Own,” the song that garnered him worldwide attention after he released it as a single in 2016.
After a quick backdrop change, indie pop band Echosmith took the stage as the second supporting act. Consisting of siblings Sydney, Noah and Graham Sierota, the group performed hits such as “Cool Kids” and “Bright,” while swatting larger-than-life inflated beach balls into the crowd.
By 9 p.m., five light displays stretching from stage floor to ceiling and five platforms were erected, which only meant one thing — it was time for Pentatonix. Through a mass of colorful strobe lights and fog, Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, Kevin Olusola and Matt Sallee appeared to the cheers and screams of their beloved Pentaholics.
PTX began its nearly two-hour set with “Sing,” a fun, high-energy track off its 2015 original album Pentatonix. As mentioned, the group has come a long way since its days on The Sing-Off, but not just in its success. PTX as a whole appeared more cohesive than ever, incorporating fresh, intricate choreography into its harmonies (which sounded impeccable), in addition to a modern, revamped wardrobe.
As always, Grassi didn’t disappoint in the fashion department. For this tour, he traded in his previous ’70s mustache and oversized suits for something more slimming — a sleek red and black jacket paired with short black shorts most females would struggle to pull off. Maldonado also sported an updated ensemble of a red crop top and matching Wonder Woman-esque bottoms.
“I feel like a superhero,” she told the audience. “A superhero of music.”
PTX was a ball of nonstop energy as it moved effortlessly through covers off its latest album PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. 1, including “Finesse” by Bruno Mars, “Attention” by Charlie Puth, and “Havana” by Camila Cabello.
Mid-way through the show, Hoying took a moment to share the sentimental story behind how Olusola joined the group. He, Grassi and Maldonado, all childhood friends from Texas, wanted to audition for The Sing-Off, but there was one issue — they needed a beatboxer. After a quick search on YouTube, Hoying stumbled across a video of Olusola not just beatboxing, but simultaneously playing the cello. The three knew they had found their guy. Hoying sent a private message to Olusola asking if he would fly to Los Angeles to join them for the audition. He was crazy enough to say “yes,” and the rest is history.
The crowd was then gifted with a special treat — Olusola broke out the cello and performed the rhythmic piece that landed him a spot in arguably the world’s top acapella group. This was truly a shining moment for Olusola, who received a standing ovation.
The night continued with several more popular covers including Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” and a flawless blend of Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” and Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito.” An easy stand out on the setlist was “Evolution of Rihanna,” a medley of more than 30 of the star’s biggest tracks spanning her entire career. Even those in the crowd who were unfamiliar with the music of “RiRi” could be found clapping along to “Umbrella” and “We Found Love.”
A Pentatonix show wouldn’t be complete without its stunning rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which showcased each member’s breadth of talent. As always, fans went crazy during Grassi’s solo part, which surely caused goosebumps to form on multiple arms that night.
For its encore, PTX went out with a bang, performing what’s possibly its most layered harmonic arrangement to date — Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com