“Attention everybody. This is about to blow your face off.”
So began Jackets Off, the first joint concert of No Jackets Required and The YellowJackets. Held Friday, Sept. 24 in the Drama House, Jackets Off served several purposes: to raise funds for new NJR equipment and The YellowJackets’ upcoming service trip to Africa and to unite two groups that have never performed together before.
Clocking in at just over an hour, Jackets Off was a brief but impressive showcase of what the two groups can do. The premise was simple. Each YellowJacket got his own song, with the exception of the finale, “Up on the Ladder to the Roof,” which featured every member of the group.
All NJR members in the show were sophomores, and five members manner the stage at a time. Guitarists Evan Alter and Chris Bethmann stood at each corner of the stage, anchoring the band in place. Keyboardist Nate Zuk, who got to shine on “Heaven” and “Live Like We’re Dyin’,” stood at stage right.
Opposite him were the alternating bassists, Joe Buonoumo and Jordan Fontheim. At center stage was the drum kit, producing constant thunder in the able hands of Scott Luchinni and Tom Krasner.
Halfway through the show, Krasner and Fontheim, who doubled as a beat-boxer for the YellowJackets, got into a percussion duel. There was no clear victor.
As to be expected, the Jackets’ vocals were uniformly excellent, though it was different to see these a cappella wunderkinds singing on their own. Jackets Off marked the debut of freshman YellowJackets Jon Hurley and Matt Carlin, who gave rousing renditions of Nine Days’ “Absolutely” and Los Lonely Boys’ “Heaven,” respectively.
Carlin and Hurley had fantastic pitch, never flubbing the melody, and both vocalists seemed to be overflowing with vivacity. Looking at their faces,
it was clear how happy they were to be there.
Unfortunately, the mics kept cutting out all night. Although the soloists’ desperate scrambles to find working mics were amusing, they detracted somewhat from the whole experience. Still, the Jackets were clearly having fun, and that enthusiasm carried over to the crowd.
Between the mad dancing, the attempted mosh-pitting near the end of the concert and the chorus of “you look so fine that I really wanna make you mine!” on “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?,” it was clear that the Drama House crowd was having a good time.
The standout number of the night was the bombastic rendition of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” featuring sophomore vocalist Galen Dole, wearing goggle-like sunglasses, with a line of dancing YellowJackets behind him.
As the lights pulsed and the drums kicked into overdrive, kicking the pop song into a disco-funk strut, it was clear that this a cappella/rock-and-roll combo was something special.
The energy from that one song was incredible, and though later multi-singer songs, including “I Kissed a Girl” and “Up the Ladder,” were enthusiastic affairs, none of them quite matched the sheer exuberance of the Rick Astley cover.
Just as suddenly as it began, the concert was over. The room emptied within minutes, and the band started packing up. This conclusion felt a bit unsatisfying.
There was nothing wrong with Jackets Off musically, or as a trial run of what the YellowJackets and NJR can do when combined. But therein lay the problem. These guys were so good together that I wasn’t ready for the concert to end.
This musical partnership deserves a bigger venue and a longer running time.
Gorman, Jr. is a member of the class of 2014.