Country a cappella heartthrobs ‘Home Free’ perform at UB

They’re a little bit silly, a little bit sappy and very, very skilled. Not a bad combination, especially when these attributes landed them a Columbia Record deal.

Of course, I’m talking about Home Free, the Minnesota-based country a cappella group that won the fourth season of NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” Last night, Home Free performed a potpourri of a cappella country and pop covers at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts stage — their third last stop on their “Crazy Life” CD tour.

While this is their first national tour since “The Sing-Off,” these boys are polished and professional performers. And they should be. They have years of technical musical training and on-the-road practice above their cowboy boots.

Brothers Chris (baritone) and Adam Rupp (percussion) started the group during their years at Gustavus Adolphus College 14 years ago. With the addition of tenor Rob Lundquist, bassist Tim Foust and high tenor Austin Brown, they’ve sang at hundreds of concerts — through fairs, colleges and cruise ships.

They know their audience too.

Although last night’s show was their second time at Center for the Arts (they were here last year on “The Sing-Off” tour), most of the audience was seeing them live for the first time.

“How many people are here because your wives dragged you here?” they asked, followed by a showing of hands.

This opprotunity allowed them to showcase their strengths while addressing the skeptics. Adam Rupp, the group’s resident beat-box, performed a one-man drum solo, mixing and re-mixing sounds and genres with his lips.

It rivals the technical genius of Bo Burnham’s “We Think We Know You.”

Foust showed off his impressive almost five-octave range with a cover of Josh Turner’s “Your Man.” During a particularly high note, Lundquist and Brown berate Foust for overstepping and dipping into their range as tenors.

What makes Home Free hit home is beyond their vocal range though. It’s their performance, self-aware talent, and maybe a little bit of their looks too. Brown and Foust shamelessly give the crowd smoldering stares before the intermission break, hoping to sell some CDs. (Their Holiday CD, “Full of Cheer,” was released on iTunes Sept. 30; “Crazy Life” was released Jan. 13.)

Foust demonstrates his skills as a lyricist. The group performed a few original songs, penned by Foust, including the sweet and sentimental country crooner “I’ve Seen”; and the comedic hit “Champagne Taste (On A Beer Budget).” Foust’s low voice and the high backup vocals makes the latter song seem like a slower musical parody of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (minus the violin, of course).

Like fellow country star Taylor Swift, they can effortlessly cover everything from country to pop, adding their unique country twang. This includes One Direction’s “The Story of My Life,” Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Bobby Day’s 1957 single “Rockin’ Robin.”

Their specialty, of course, is their country harmonies, and they showcase them with Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids,” Scotty McCreery’s “Feelin’ It,” Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” Rascal Flatts’ “Life Is A Highway,” Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” the Zac Brown Band’s “Warmer Weather,” and ending with the most ‘country’ classic of all, “God Bless America.”

Now that’s something America can love.


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