Parsa Lofti, Staff Photographer

In the last year, the YellowJackets have survived a far larger turnover rate than normal — over 50 percent of the group graduated and was replaced by new members — a troubling place to be for any performance group. In the sping show, the YellowJackets didn’t live up to their usual standards, which meant they had a lot to prove coming into their fall show on Saturday, Nov. 10 in Strong Auditorium. Luckily, they didn’t disappoint.

Their show opened with a guest performance by UR’s newest co-ed acappella group, Trebellious. Apart from an above-average performance from soloist sophomore Steve Rickard on their opening number, City High’s “What Would You Do,” the set was neither remarkable nor of any considerable quality.

Vocal Point also made an appearance later in the performance. Their set, featuring very contrasting songs, was impressive, but not necessarily memorable. Their vocal talent was clearly on display, backed up by solid arrangements and an ensemble that rarely — if ever — went off-pitch. The set was fine overall, if not extraordinary, with their exceptional cover of Taylor Swift’s and the Civil Wars’ “Safe and Sound” standing out as the highlight.

The YellowJackets began their first set with a showcase of their newest members. The four “newbies” — freshmen Logan Stillings, Luke Metzler and Aditiya Nellore and Eastman School of Music junior Chris Urquiaga — impressed with their savvy stage presence and vocal diversity, making up for slight balance and pitch issues in their performance of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” Not to be outdone, veteran members showed off their abilities in the fan favorite “Disney Medley” — featuring songs from “Mulan,” “Aladdin” and “Hercules” — highlighted by senior Galen Dole’s staggering solo in “Go the Distance.”

Dole followed his solo by demonstrating his unique trombone impression in a cover of Chuck Mangione’s “Hill Where the Lord Hides,” the first of four songs in what was simply called “Rock Medley.” The assembly of songs from the ’60s and ’70s was well-performed and featured a far more sophisticated sound than the group had been able to channel in their spring concert last year.

Junior Abhishek Sharma took center stage for the debut performance of his original song, “Pretty Girl.” Despite cheesy lyrics reminiscent of teenage heartthrobs throughout history  and the slightly repetitive arrangement, the song’s originality and Sharma’s strong vocal lead was impressive and  the number ended with the loudest applause heard up until that point. However, there was an eerie silence in the auditorium when the YellowJackets performed a cover of Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up.” Of the dozens of songs they’ve performed, they never once performed one more beautifully. The complex, moving arrangement, led remarkably by Dole and Urquiaga, pulled the audience through an emotional roller coaster of sound.

After a brief intermission, the YellowJackets returned in costume as characters fitting with their “Avengers” theme. Senior Michael Pittman’s flamboyant performance style (coupled with his comedic interpretation of The Hulk) added humor to the YellowJackets’ performance of Nikki Minaj’s “Starships,” which was followed by a take on Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me.” Though soloist sophomore Ian Wallace-Moyer may not have Bieber’s star power, he was more than a match as a performer and, along with an arrangement that featured an impressive array of vocal effects, the song proved to be one of the biggest fan favorites of the night. Their final song of the set, an unconventional take on David Guetta’s “Titanium,” featured two soloists — senior Ross Pederson and junior Aden Brooks — with great voices that unfortunately didn’t seem to fit the mood of the song, though the complete performance itself was surprisingly well done.

To begin their final, three-song set, the YellowJackets returned to the stage with a tour de force of a performance of fun.’s “Some Nights.” With junior Matt Carlin on lead, the YJs brought additional life to an already formidable song with a combination of unified harmonies, impressive vocal percussion from Sharma and one of the few pitch-perfect performances of the night.

To wind down the show, Dole and Carlin came out once again for a cover of  the ’80s cult hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers. Though an unorthodox choice as a final song, it was of superb overall quality. As is tradition with the YellowJackets, the concert ended with their alumni song, the ’70s hit “Up the Ladder to the Roof.”

Despite all these positives, there was one major negative to this show: the way the YellowJackets approached their theme, “The Amazing Avengers Rises.” Though it was meant to act as a combination of the three preeminent superhero movies from this past summer, the lack of effort by the group to integrate the theme into the show was surprising.

Their attempt to separate each set with video clips based on the theme seemed forced, with each clip bringing no more than a small amount of uncomfortable laughter every couple of minutes. Furthermore, the costumes they wore for one of their sets seemed to have been thrown together at the last minute (the exception being Pittman’s Hulk). They seemed to be to be trying too hard to mimic the Midnight Ramblers’ goof-ball approach to themes, when they really should have focused on the music.

Surprisingly, there were many empty seats in Strong. For a performance of this quality, the YellowJackets deserved to have sold out the show. They may no longer be as nationally well-known as they were last summer, but there was nothing in their performance that showed any sign of decline in the group — if anything, they’ve improved in certain ways. In the end, one thing was clear: the “Sing-Off” YellowJackets are gone. What has replaced them may be less flashy, less innovative and somehow unable to fill Strong Auditorium to capacity, but is a leaner, cleaner, high-potential outfit that will never lack in professionalism or quality performances.

Pascutoi is a member of the class of 2015.



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