Congratulations to “The Sing-Off.” NBC’s a cappella TV competition has accomplished what “American Idol” hasn’t been able to pull off in its 12 previous seasons: Putting together a consistently entertaining live concert tour.

The inaugural Sing-Off Tour delivered a winning show Friday night at sold-out Mill City Nights in the hometown of Season 4 winners Home Free.

The smartly conceived, two-hour concert featured Home Free and two other “The Sing-Off” competitors, VoicePlay from Orlando and the Filharmonic from Los Angeles. The 32-city tour is visiting nightclubs and theaters, which makes more sense than "American Idol" essaying arenas with a cast of singers who've never been onstage in such big venues before.

The three "Sing-Off" groups performed all together (the closing, reverent reading of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” without microphones was a highlight), in “ultimate” face-offs with another group as they traded verses on the same song, and their own individual sets. Plus the beat boxers from all three ensembles teamed up for a percussion showcase.

Although Mill City Nights felt intimate, it seemed odd to see this kind of a show in a club (with most of the audience standing) rather than a theater (with the audience sitting).

Here are a few thoughts about each of the ensembles.

Home Free

The Twin Cities quintet proved why they deserved to win the TV competition. They are creative as vocalists and entertainers. And they kept the young women screaming as if they were watching a boy band.


Doing a truncated version of their own concert, the country-leaning Home Free did a silly guilty pleasures segment (featuring mostly bubblegum pop hits like “Call Me Maybe” and “Friday”) as well as their “Sing-Off” signature moment, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”


There was a bit of a personnel change. Gone was Honey, the woman the long-time Orlando quintet recruited for “The Sing-Off.” Instead, joining VoicePlay on a few numbers Friday was Amani, the frizzy-haired vocal powerhouse who sang with Ten, runners-up on “The Sing-Off.” She showed a high, piercing soprano, a nice touch that made VoicePlay stand out on Friday – especially since she was the only woman in the show.


VoicePlay had a sense of drama both in the theatrical sense and the musical sense. That was evident in a bit where the five guys sat in an imaginary vehicle and acted like they were going on a road trip. Quick, clever and resourceful, they did various sound effects (from locking the door to revving the engine), kept changing the radio stations and ended up with the age-old and ageless bit of passing gas, which, of course, led the offending person to sing Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.”


The Filharmonic

These young guys, ages 20 to 27, showed lots of energy and a fun sense of choreography. They lacked a stand-out lead singer; in fact, a couple of the singers who took leads had very similar voices. But the six vocalists, all wearing white,had the kind of fresh, versatile repertoire of hits that elicited girlish screams.   

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