BY SAMANTHA NEGRAVAL NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
The finale of NBC’s “The Sing-Off” was certainly a night to remember. from a performance by the legendary Smokey Robinson, accompanied by Afro-Blue, to a surprising tip of the hat to Bruce Springsteen, the two-hour event was an a capella celebration.
Pentatonix, a group of vocal innovators from Arlington, Texas, was declared the Season 3 champions and walked away with $200,000 and a Sony recording contract.
“I don’t even know what to say. I can’t believe it,” said Scott Hoying, Pentatonix’s male lead. “I’m just so humbled to share the stage with my best friends. They’re my family. These were 16 amazing groups. I can’t believe this has happened.”
Earlier in the evening, the group wrote to fans on their Facebook wall: “TODAY IS THE DAY! AHHHHHHGAHHHH!! IT’s all coming to tonight, where we finally see who America decides! Sooo giddy Hope all of you are watching tonight!”
Pentatonix is best known for their futuristic take on Top 40 hits, and their bag of vocal tricks and surprises. They delivered solid performances during the length of the competition, putting their own twists on songs while staying true to the original tracks.
Despite their small size of just five members, Pentatonix’s power blew away the audiences and judges Shawn Stockman, Sara Bareilles, and Ben Folds every week. a clear favorite from the start, the group never landed i n the bottom two during elimination.
According to their official website, Pentatonix began as a trio when Hoying and friends Mitch Grassi and Kirstie Maldonado, all 19 years old, met at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas. They began entering competitions and received local recognition. Realizing they could have a bigger sound by adding a solid bass and beat-boxer, they sought out Avi Kaplan and vocal percussionist Kevin Olusola. This dynamic duo provided a rhythm section that drove Pentatonix right into the finale.
“You guys have potential to take a capella into the mainstream,” said Folds during final judge’s comments. “I think you should get out there and work with the best writers in the business, the best producers, and get out there.” always one for a joke, Folds added, “When you’re on the road, stay at Night’s Inn. It’s very cheap.”
And keeping with the theme of heading out on the road, the “Sing-Off” finale also featured an electrifying rendition of “Born to Run” by Jersey’s own icon Bruce Springsteen.
The only way the performance could have been better is if The Boss himself joined in the a capella fun. Unfortunately, Springsteen did not attend. (Perhaps he is too busy putting the final touches on his upcoming album or tour dates.)
But the male vocalists of 15 of the 16 vocal groups (Delilah was the only all-girl group) did the anthem justice, packing the stage and singing their hearts out in a performance that brought down the house.
An entertained Nick Lachey, the show’s host, remarked that the performance brought everyone back to Jersey.
A little of the Garden State in L.a.? Well, why not!
Samantha Negraval is an editor for NewJerseyNewsroom.com and a freelance writer.
Something special was happening in UB’s Center for the Arts on Sunday night, and it was more than just the timeless music of two great Motown groups.
It was the joy of watching a mixed-race audience of people thoroughly enjoying themselves, smiling and dancing the night away with two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame groups — namely the Temptations and the Four Tops.
It was the sublime pleasure of watching the two last original members of these groups — Abdul “Duke” Fakir of the Tops and Otis Williams of the Tempts — still able to kick it in their 70s.
It all made for a very enjoyable night, as the great old songs of Motown transported the audience back to the 1960s for a couple of hours.
Songs like “Get Ready,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” “Just my Imagination” and “Reach out (I’ll be There)” were reminders of the days when Berry Gordy and his Detroit-based hit machine brought black and white music fans together like no one had done before.
Some of the night’s warmest ovations went to Fakir and Williams, the grand old men of the Motown sound. these gentlemen performed with Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and others back in Motown’s heyday, and it’s a delight to see them still performing.
The Tops opened the show with a loose but soulful set, spotlighting many of their hits from the 1960s and ’70s. Fakir sang, danced and introduced most of the songs. Incredibly, he has been with his group since 1954, when the Tops were known as the Four Aims. a con-genial guy with thick eyeglasses, he’ll turn 76 the day after Christmas.
Still a smooth dancer and vocalist, Fakir now is flanked by three younger men — including Lawrence Payton Jr., whose late father was one of the original Tops. Ronnie McNeir has been with the group since 1999, and Harold “Spike” Bonhart is a more recent addition. as lead singer, Bonhart faces pretty much an impossible task — trying to take the place of Levi Stubbs, the gritty song stylist who is widely considered one of the most dynamic soul singers of all time.
No one can sing like Stubbs did, but Bonhart showed some grit of his own on hits like “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” and a roaring version of “Bernadette.”
After an hour of Four Tops music, the Temptations took the stage. they looked a bit pudgy and rough around the edges in their outrageously loud red sport coats, but the Tempts can still bring it.
Lead singer Bruce Williamson, a mountain of a man with a shaved head, sang a lot like the late, great David Ruffin as the group fired off one killer hit song after another — “Can’t get Next to You,” “Ain’t too Proud to Beg,” “Papa was a Rolling Stone” and “I Wish it Would Rain,” to name just a few.
Ron Tyson, who has been with the group since 1983, brought his sweet falsetto voice to “Just my Imagination,” one of the saddest, sweetest and most delicate soul songs ever to hit the top 40. He was ably backed by Williamson, Joe Herndon, Terry Weeks and Williams, the last man standing from the days when the Temptations started out 50 years ago.
Like Fakir, the 70-year-old Williams showed that he still enjoys performing and appreciates the fact that he’s still healthy enough to do it.
The Temptations and the Four Tops
Sunday evening in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre, North Campus, Amherst.