On Friday, Feb. 20, No Jackets Required put on its third annual show, “A Night at the Movies.” The student-run rock ensemble performed renditions of soundtrack songs from classic movies of the 20th and 21st century, covering everything from Irene Cara’s “What a Feeling” (of “Flashdance”) to Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love” (of “Shrek”). While not as consistent as the group’s knockout “Soul Train” show from October of last year,
“A Night at the Movies” had its fair share of memorable student performances.
“A Night at the Movies” loosely followed a plot starring junior Dan Chess. Chess’s character was, for some reason, named Andy Dufresne, even though his story had nothing to do with “The Shawshank Redemption.” Regardless, in NJR’s story, Dufresne had a paper to write on film and the deadline was coming up fast. With a little help from his friends, all of whom played other classic movie characters, Dufresne learned the true meaning of film and was able to write an ace paper.
At its best, “A Night at the Movies” was everything it should have been—cinematic, dramatic and entertaining. The group opened the show with a funky rendition of “Also Sprach Zarathustra/2001” (the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”) The group’s cover, which might have been inspired by Phish’s groove-oriented interpretation of the song, was an epic and fun choice for an opener. NJR did an impressive job tackling classic ballads as well, such as Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Live and Let Die.” The group’s rendition of the song brought out the best of the accompanying string and horn section, and it did justice to the elaborate and dynamic nature of the original song. In addition, NJR did a righteous cover of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” which appeared in the context of the classic rock film
“Almost Famous.” The rhythm section offered a strong and solid foundation behind some powerhouse lead vocals, making for a truly inspiring cover.
Without a doubt, though, the standout performance of the night was the group’s tribute to “The Lion King.” Sophomore Roofer Li opened the performance with the infamous opening chant to “The Circle of Life,” accompanied by an interpretive dance from sophomore Aisyah Zulkarnain. Zulkarnain wore a focused and incisive expression on her face as she moved to the music; in fact, her performance was so urgent that a few chuckles could be heard from the audience during its beginning. However, as the number progressed, the audience was captivated. From the uplifting and vocally spot-on choir to the adorably inspiring christening of stuffed animal Simba, the performance was transcendent.
NJR concerts are not short, and in the case of “A Night at the Movies,” the show dragged on a little bit. Many of the song choices of the night were ballads, which made for a lull or two in the set, like the group’s cover of Idina Menzel’s “Let it Go,” where the rhythm section’s backing performance was as apathetic as you could get. On the other hand, some of the set’s rockers highlighted technical issues—covers like “(I’ve Had) the Time of my Life” brought energy, but wthe rhythm guitars were out-of-tune and way too loud.
Hiccups aside, “A Night at the Movies” was an overall strong show from NJR. Where “Soul Train” brought the funk, “A Night at the Movies” brought the right mix of drama, ambition and a whole lot of fun.
Howard is a member of the class of 2017.