Filipino American acapella boy band The Filharmonic kicked off their “Christmas with The Filharmonic Tour” at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on December 10th, 2021. The group, comprised of Jules Cruz (vocal bass), Joe Caigoy (tenor), Trace Gaynor (tenor), VJ Rosales (tenor), and Niko Del Rey (beat boxer), rose to national stardom as contestants on the fourth season of The Sing-Off and guest stars in Pitch Perfect 2 and The Late Late Show with James Corden. While the group has stayed busy releasing collaborations and covers on their Youtube channel over the past year and a half, this show was extra special because it was the first time they were able to perform live since the pandemic.
The group opened the show with a Christmas medley, filling the hall with holiday cheer and warming up for a night of groovy fun. They segwayed into snippets of songs they sang with pop sensations such as John Legend, Shawn Mendes, Anna Kendrick, Camila Cabello, and Liam Payne, showcasing the group’s caliber and stylistic versatility and serving as teasers for the full covers available on their Youtube page. It would be remiss to not include a song by another iconic Filipino artist, Bruno Mars, so they performed a classy rendition of “Leave the Door Open.”
The concert felt much more like a relaxed family gathering than a formal affair. Audience members of all ages, from toddlers to parents and elderly couples, were clapping along and enjoying the music. To appeal to the younger audience members, the band performed TikTok earworms such as “Levitating” and “Kiss Me More.” While these songs were catchy and fun, the group’s tasteful harmonies, Motown roots, and finger-snapping grooviness really shined in soulful numbers like “You’re Still the One / Back At One,” “Go Tell it on the Mountain / Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “All of Me.”
Not only does The Filharmonic excel at finger-snapping R&B tracks, they can deliver heartfelt ballads with an emotional maturity beyond their years. Joe, accompanied by VJ on the piano, performed a passionate solo — his warm, chocolatey tone effortlessly filling the hall. The group’s stripped down, emotional rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” recognized that, for many, this could be the first Christmas where folks are able to gather safely with their loved ones since the pandemic, but, at the same time, those who have lost family or friends would feel their absences even more acutely during the holiday season.
One of the highlights of the evening was the crash course beatbox tutorial that earned a lot of laughter and valiant audience attempts at producing the bass drum and snare hits. Niko sauntered on stage with a bemused smile and demonstrated how the basic beatbox sounds were supposed to sound like. “As a kid, I made a lot of weird sounds, and my favorite character to imitate was Stitch,” laughed Niko. He demonstrated his Stitch impression and proceeded to splice in Stitch sounds into a driving beat, simultaneously amusing and wowing the audience with the incredible variety of sounds he could generate.
While most of the songs were performed as a complete group, the setlist allowed every member to showcase their unique talents. VJ and Jules performed a few duets; VJ’s high falsettos and elegant riffs perfectly balanced Jules’ resonant bass in a unique vocal combination. Not to be outdone, Trace brought out his violin to perform arrangements of “The Nutcracker Suite” by Tchaikovsky, and he was joined by Niko, augmenting the classic holiday sounds with hip-hop and trap beats.
At the end of the show, the audience gave the group a standing ovation and cheered enthusiastically for an encore, to which the band happily obliged, returning to the stage to perform the song they debuted with, “Treasure,” by Bruno Mars. The group’s passion for performing and excitement about returning to live shows were palpable, and the concert was a delightful holiday treat for old and new fans alike.