The YellowJackets are in a league of their own. Among UR’s premier a cappella groups, they have the essentials covered: an expansive repertoire, tight vocal harmonies, and all the lovable onstage antics one could ask for. On and off the stage, they project an aura of glee club-style schmaltz fused with frat-boy edge. It’s an endearing combination, a celebration of vulnerability and a subculture that chugs beer to prove its masculinity.
That said, the YellowJackets couldn’t have picked a better title for their new album, “Fifty Shades of Yellow,” which they performed last Saturday in Strong Auditorium. Interspersed between a dynamic pop setlist were readings from E.L. James’ novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The result was a 90-minute show that spotlighted the YellowJackets’ charisma and versatility as performers and vocalists.
The show opened with some fan favorites, including One Direction’s “Kiss You” and a Beach Boys medley. The Jackets did an impressive job of delivering a cohesive and flowing set, counterbalancing teenybopper pop with the old-school surf rock it’s based upon. Of course, a YellowJackets show wouldn’t be complete without wooing the girls in the audience. The sweet-talk was in full swing by the second set, but impressively enough, the group didn’t let gimmicks overshadow solid harmonization and an overall impressive vocal performance.
The second set showcased some more surprising sounds and styles. Highlights included Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up,” the most tender moment of the show. These performances made the show all the more worthwhile, featuring hidden gems you wouldn’t expect from a late-night YellowJacket dorm invasion.
Collegiate a cappella is so campy that it’s difficult not to dismiss it altogether. The YellowJackets certainly lay on the oozy sentimentality, but they channel it in such an earnest and engaging way, tempered by their restless frat-boy energy. During the performance, the guys had only one thought on their minds: having the time of their lives, and sharing that with you.
Howard is a member of the class of 2017.