Pentatonix at The Academy, Dublin, 18th May 2014
Since winning the third season of American television choral show ‘The Sing-Off” in 2011, five-piece a-capella group Pentatonix have achieved moderate success. Though this fame has been confined mainly to an online setting, the group have also had three charting compilation albums in the US, and recently ended their first European tour here in Dublin.
Without any remarkable introduction , the group file out and jump straight into their Daft Punk medley, easily their most popular song (with upwards of 70 million views on YouTube). The first few numbers feature some clumsy choreography, but eventually the partitioning curtain drops revealing a set of steps and platforms, which make movements a bit more comfortable for the rest of the show.
The crowd is a very clear divide between pre-teens (with their obliging parents) and couples in their thirties, with not very much in between. However it would be tough to decide which group is more excited. Right from the start, every song, and even every change of lead within a song, is met with deafening cheers and screams of the members names. Though infectious on the whole, this enthusiasm does eventually begin to irritate, as some of the singing is drowned out by each cry.
Drawing primarily from their YouTube-famous covers, the set-list seems to satisfy the eager crowd, with the Evolution of Beyoncé and Team/Royals being standout medleys among these.
While the three main vocalists take a breather, bass vocalist Ari performs a short piece of Mongolian overtone singing- an outstanding feat of dual vocals, where a constant drone note is sung simultaneously with high-pitched whistle notes. Following this, beat-boxer Kevin perform a solo cello/beat-box piece, which actually proves to be a very compelling mix, but is somewhat wasted on the screaming crowd.
The final number before their encore is original Run To You. This is a beautiful hymn-like song which, for the first time in the night, brings the room to silence. This is a redeemer to some extent, properly exhibiting the potential of their combined vocals, without any gimmicks.
It’s difficult to decide whether we are at a concert or a recital, and any audience member’s opinion will ultimately come back to which context they view it in. As a recital, the vocals may not live up to the standard of an international choral group, sometimes sounding nasally and diluted. As a unique concert though, it is completely refreshing to hear clean, vocally-focused pop songs, sung by genuinely talented individuals.