UR’s premiere student-run cover band club No Jackets Required turned back the clock this past Friday in the May room with their Fall concert, “The Totally ’90s Show.”
The theme of this show was all things musical from the 1990s—from the familiar theme songs of iconic TV shows like “Friends,” “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” and “That ’70s Show,” to the hard-hitting aggression of Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine.
The format of NJR’s shows in the past few years has been to focus on a unique theme each concert, with past themes including the Grammys and even a Rainforest show.
Performances within a single concert vary significantly, with vocalists and auxiliary instrumentalists switching out for almost every performance and the core instrumental backing band changing a handful of times throughout the show.
This constant shifting gives NJR shows a certain lack of cohesion, but it tends to serve as part of the appeal, not a detriment.
The sheer variety that found in ’90s music exacerbated this incongruousness somewhat, but NJR did a good job of laying out their set list in a way that kept the energy flowing throughout without any dips longer than a song or two.
Another positive of the varied set list was the number of different genres and types of performers they were able to incorporate. In the first portion of the show alone, listeners heard everything from a soulful performance of feel-good slow rocker “To Be With You” to a punishingly intense and high energy rendition of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade,” both of which were highlights of the first of the three sections in the performance.
Due to the size of NJR’s performer list and the sheer number of songs performed (26 in total), the quality of the performances did vary. Despite some occasional stumbles and foibles, it was still abundantly apparent that NJR put a lot of time and effort into arranging and rehearsing these songs.
The variety of auxiliary instrumentation was especially impressive, with some songs including full blown string or horn sections and others featuring impressive solos on everything from melodica to saxophone. A cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” showcased this prowess with a string section providing a soft sonic bed for the song’s absolutely killer vocal performance to soar over.
The rendition of ska hit “The Impression That I Get” was another highlight, showcasing a bombastic horn section.
One thing that did put a stain on some of these highlights was technical problems (no fault of NJR’s) that distracted and detracted from several performances. At some moments there were several minute gaps between songs while sound problems were worked out or mics faded in and out sporadically.
During a cover of “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls, the mics covering the string section were either muted or turned down so low that the strings were entirely inaudible, failing to showcase the effort put into arranging and rehearsing those parts.
Overall, NJR was as fun to see as ever. The variety of songs presented in this show provided everyone with something to enjoy. The constant changes of lineup, while at times jarring, allowed prevented the show from growing stale despite its runtime of over two hours.
NJR shows aren’t really about cohesion or consistently perfect performances—they’re about seeing your friends and peers perform some fun and classic songs. In that regard, NJR delivered as always.