By Catherine Brown–
Three-time Grammy-winning acapella group Pentatonix decked the halls at the Yum! Center on Dec. 11 with their headlining “Evergreen Tour.”
I went with my best friend, Destiny Smith, a junior nursing major whom I frequently reference in my opinion articles.
I was fortunate enough to score 2 floor seats located directly in front of the sound booth —the premium spot to hear the quintet hit high notes and belt out holiday carols.
The concert was slated to start at 7 p.m, but doors opened at 6 p.m. After grabbing our jumbo pretzels and settling down in our seats, we waited for the group to appear as Christmas music played in the background.
I noticed that the audience of this concert was significantly older than I would have imagined. Sitting all around us were older adults dressed in festive holiday dresses and ugly Christmas sweaters, all of whom had come to listen to this diverse group of young acapella singers perform some of the classics and even their own original music.
A few minutes before the band finally appeared on stage, a handful of the audience started chanting “PTX! PTX!” over and over again. Sure enough, at around 7:45 p.m, the lights went down and the audience started yelling and cheering. A video appeared on the large screens next to the stage with the members singing “It’s Been a Long Long Time.”
Shortly thereafter, the curtains raised and the acapella group was standing there on stage singing their acapella version of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.”
The show continued with classic holiday songs like “Joy to the World,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” and “We Need a Little Christmas.” They even sang my personal favorite PTX cover “Mary, Did You Know?” which had tenor Mitch Grassi belting out notes that you have to hear in-person to believe. Even then, I couldn’t wrap my head around the sheer strength behind his high notes.
Interspersed between songs, each band member gave a short speech about how glad they were to be in Louisville and how enthusiastic the audience was during each song.
Baritone Scott Hoying even detailed the history of the group’s origins, including the beginning of Pentatonix starting in high school with members Hoying, Grassi, and mezzo-soprano Kirstie Maldonado. Hoying joked that this was his “pretending-to-be-straight era,” which earned laughs from the audience.
Kevin Olusola, Pentatonix’s vocal percussion and an Owensboro native, shared how he felt like he was back home with the band being in Kentucky. Olusola then led the audience into a moment of silence in memory of the devastating tornado on early Saturday morning that devastated much of western Kentucky.
The band then led into a beautiful cover of the Christian hymn “Amazing Grace.”
“I can feel the warmth and the kindness just emanating from everyone in this room,” said Mitch about the fact that everyone can be together in one large area again since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a brief intermission, during which I bought my Evergreen Tour t-shirt from the crowded merch stand, Pentatonix reemerged with a dazzling costume change and launched into their beautiful cover of “Hallelujah” by the late Leonard Cohen.
They finished out the concert with a charming and hilarious cover of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” sung primarily by the group’s newest member, bass Matt Sellee as well as original songs from their latest album, “Evergreen” and a modern version of the classic “12 Days of Christmas.”
But I wasn’t the only one who knew that that wasn’t the end. Despite some of the audience taking an early leave, the lights in the arena hadn’t even come up yet. We all cheered on Pentatonix to come out for an encore, and they did so. They turned off their mics for a cover of the song “My Heart With You,” and their voices projected loud and clear around the room.
They ended with a jazzy rendition of “Joyful, Joyful,” and the curtains closed for the final time that night.
The combination of holiday music, stage sets, and the sugar cookie aroma filling the Yum! Center arena (which Mitch commented on) created an atmosphere of holiday festivity.
I’ve been a fan of Pentatonix since I was 14. Since then, I’ve forced my family to watch dozens of their music videos and even saw them open for Kelly Clarkson on her 2015 “Piece by Piece Tour.” This concert was a privilege to attend and I can only hope they return to Louisville again in years to come.
Photos by Catherine Brown // The Louisville Cardinal