The UR Yellowjackets rocked a raucous crowd Saturday evening in Strong Auditorium as they hosted “Acapocalypse,” an a cappella invitational that featured a cappella groups from various local universities including Cornell University, Nazareth College and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Starting out the night with an upbeat song, “I’m in a Hurry,” the Yellowjackets immediately captured the crowd with their two-step dancing and well-executed choreography. Overall, the song, with the exception of the slight fading out of the lead singer toward the end of the piece, was performed very well.

“Won’t Go Home Without You,” one of Maroon 5’s lesser-known songs, was the second piece sung by the Yellowjackets. The number was executed modestly, but was not the best of their numbers that evening.

After the two initial songs, the newest members of the all-male a cappella group introduced the first guest performance, the co-ed Cornell Cordials.

Their first choice was Kelly Clarkson’s “Does It Hurt?” which was not my favorite Cordial performance. The lead singer was somewhat overshadowed by the accompaniment in the background, especially in the beginning of the song when she started out quite softly. I did not enjoy the a cappella rendition of this song – I think the tempo at which it was performed was unfitting to the original song.

The Cordial’s second song was led by a woman who did not seem to have great range or voice quality and seemed unable to blend well with her background. “Who Knew,” by Pink, was the their third choice and featured a lead singer who blended exceptionally well with the accompaniment. The lead singer of the fourth and final song had a husky, seductive voice of outstanding quality and fueled the strong finish of this group in the Invitational.

One of my favorite performances of the night followed, as the Yellowjackets performed “Love Stoned” by Justin Timberlake, really getting the crowd going with their brilliant choreography. The entire bunch got involved, seductively stripping off their jackets, sprinkling glitter on the stage and executing the moonwalk with the precision of MJ himself.

Most unfortunately, however, I think I can claim on behalf of those present that Call For Backup, the all-female group from Nazareth, failed to execute either of their two chosen songs with anything close to precision at all. The rendition of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” was breathy, the lead’s voice was a bit too sensuous for my liking and the backup was weak. But compared to their second song, “These Boots” could actually be deemed a decent interpretation.

The group next attempted, in vain, to imitate Christina Aguilera’s unique, strong, vibrant voice in performing “Candyman.” Attempting to re-create one of Aguilera’s songs is, to begin with, a near-impossible feat, in that the lead vocalist needs to have an unusually strong and rich voice with vast dynamics and range. The lead singer of Call For Backup was drowned out from the start by her inaccurate, inconsistent background, and the song was, regrettably, doomed from the get go.

On the upside, the two songs performed by the Nazareth ladies were very well-known, a characteristic that, I feel, makes any performance that much more enjoyable for the audience. Alas, the group, for whatever reason that evening, was unimpressive and would have fared better had they “called for backup.”

At the intermission, I definitely felt that the Yellowjackets have come a long way since the origin of the group – they have improved in every aspect including their appearance, voice quality and ability to engage the crowd. If not for the sheer fact that I have yet to see the Midnight Ramblers perform this year, I’d feel confident saying that the Yellowjackets are currently rivaling the Midnight Ramblers as the pre-eminent male a cappella group at UR.

Of course, a few of the songs that the Yellowjackets performed featured mediocre lead singers, somewhat off-pitch and nervous, but one of the things I enjoyed about the show was the variety of leads that the Yellowjackets used throughout the evening.

Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be” and 98?’s “The Hardest Thing” fueled a perpetual infatuation with the boys for the ladies in the crowd. The lead for “The Hardest Thing” was exceptional, and senior Corey Krafte’s verse was performed to numerous catcalls from the crowd. Unfortunately, the soloist for “I’ll Be” seemed a bit nervous to begin with, but began to really belt out the song toward the middle and through the end.

Encore from RIT, the second all-female a cappella group of the night, had a great deal more success than Call For Backup, performing “Carry On My Wayward Son” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” broken up by a second song with great lead vocals and background accompaniment. The leads for all three songs were strong and full, and the girls were able to imitate Kansas’s infamous guitar line fairly accurately. Overall, the choice of songs was excellent in my opinion, and the girls performed all three extremely well.

Next, UR’s all-female a cappella group, Vocal Point, treated the crowd to excellent renditions of “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “Downfall” by Matchbox 20. All three of the women leading the songs had amazing voices. Senior Kristy Doot’s performance of “Midnight Train” was especially suberb – her rapturous voice willed her accompaniment to back her up a little more strongly.

The ending of the show was a bit disappointing in my opinion, with junior Eric Cinelli from the Yellowjackets performing “Somebody to Love.” His voice faded toward the end and was somewhat drowned out by the background harmonies. The Yellowjackets’ final song included a member of their alumni and was performed as most of the crowd exited Strong.

The invitational was, for the most part, an incredible show to enjoy. As I stated, I feel that the Yellowjackets have really stepped up their performances, really making an effort to get every group member involved and adding awesome choreography that doesn’t take away from their fabulous voices.

My only complaint would be in regard to the somewhat humorous video shown halfway through the show, depicting a mockery of an ordinary audition for the Yellowjackets. Though it was mildly entertaining, I felt that it was an unnecessary addition to the show.

Ultimately, though, the Yellowjackets really impressed me Saturday evening, pulling at my heartstrings with popular love songs and making me cheer with the rest of the crowd for an overall sensational showing.

Nicewicz is a member of the class of 2009.

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