Pentatonix brought Christmas cheer to Boston

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January 10, 2020

On Dec. 11, braving the cold and wind, Jennifer and I (Polina) traveled to Boston University’s Agganis Arena to see “A Pentatonix Christmas Tour 2019.” Pentatonix, often abbreviated as PTX, is a five-member American Grammy-Award-winning a cappella group that covers popular songs and also releases original music. Around the holidays, you can often hear PTX on the radio singing their famous covers of “Hallelujah,” “Winter Wonderland” featuring Tori Kelly and many more classic Christmas songs.

Both Jennifer and I love the Christmas season and the many different carols and songs that are sung this time of the year. Pentatonix is one of our favorite groups and their collection of Christmas music does not disappoint, so we knew we had to see them live when they came to Boston for their annual holiday tour. And the best part? It was on our study day so we didn’t even have to skip any classes!

The seats in Agganis Arena were packed with couples young and old, huge families with children of all ages and large groups of friends. The energy in the room was lively and everyone seemed excited for the show to begin from the moment they saw the red neon “Pentatonix” sign on stage. We saw many dressed in festive Christmas-inspired costumes, light-up necklaces and one person dressed in normal attire but wearing a headband with a large golden star on top. 

The opening act was a quartet of Christmas carolers known as the Olde Towne Carolers, who delighted the crowd with some classic songs such as “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Frosty The Snowman.” Their talent was unquestionable, but the energy level was generally a bit low for the audience that was eagerly awaiting the headlining group.

After another short break, the lights went down and the show was officially about to begin. An animated video began to play with the five members of Pentatonix—Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Kirstin Maldonado, Kevin Olusola and Matt Sallee—debating whether or not to release another Christmas album. Instead, they decided on a compilation of some of their best hits, with a few new surprises. That album, “The Best of Pentatonix Christmas,” was released on Oct. 25 and hit number seven on the U.S. Billboard 200 Chart, and we have been playing it on repeat all of fall semester.

With that, Pentatonix came onto the stage and began to sing “Angels We Have Heard On High.” While the crowd erupted in cheers at their arrival, Jennifer and I both acknowledged the respect of the audience throughout the entire concert. There weren’t constant cheers during all of the songs, so each of the singers’ voices could be heard well. The set featured tall white Christmas trees, neon light-up risers and a background screen that displayed different festive scenes to compliment every song.

Some memorable moments included Pentatonix’s rendition of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” in which The Grinch himself snuck onto the stage wearing Santa’s suit and taunted each of the singers, and even stepped out into the audience to poke and prod at people. The choreography of the number was well done, and Sallee’s lead vocals were perfect. He led up to the song by stepping into the audience to ask people what the worst gift they ever received on Christmas was. The answer we remember was a “re-gifted toilet plunger.” 

Grassi also walked amongst the audience asking what everyone’s favorite Christmas movie was, before revealing his favorite: “Love, Actually.” This was the perfect lead into the next song which is featured in that movie, “God Only Knows.” This was one of Polina’s favorite Pentatonix covers and the group nailed it on stage, sitting casually on the risers as they sang.

Other fun songs included PTX’s rendition of “Sleigh Ride,” when the group actually slid a huge red sleigh onto the middle of the stage and sat in it during the song, the fast-paced “Jingle Bells” and their dramatic version of “Carol of the Bells.” 

A stand out performance for the both of us was Olusola’s solo “celloboxing” performance, so named by fellow member Hoying. As the rest of the group rested their voices for a moment, Olusola came on stage and played Bach’s Prelude No. 1 on the cello. He then began to beatbox along with the song in a stunning rhythm that resulted in roaring applause.

Of course, this review would not be complete without mentioning the awe-inspiring performance of “Hallelujah,” originally by Leonard Cohen. This cover is incredible, and their five voices mesh together perfectly in this song in a way that left us all covered in goosebumps (and with a tear or two on our cheeks). We felt similarly during their cover of “Imagine” by John Lennon, as the audience pulled out cell phone flashlights to light up the dark room.

The very last song of the encore, “Joyful, Joyful,” featuring Jazmine Sullivan, had perhaps the most energy of all the other performances. We couldn’t help but stand up and dance along, and the rest of the audience, which had mainly been sitting down the entire time, followed suit. Members of Pentatonix also danced into the aisles of the audience as they sang, giving a great feeling of community and Christmas spirit as a way to end the concert.

As members of the group said themselves during introductions to songs, it is incredible that such a large audience could gather to see an a cappella group perform live. However, when listening to their talented voices and perfect pitch, it is clear why Pentatonix has the fans that they do. It was refreshing to attend a concert that did not need to rely on flashing lights and backtracks to highlight the artist. Rather, it was just about their voices, and the lyrics. If they come back to Boston, you will definitely find us there.

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