When Nick Jonas walks onstage at the Beacon Theatre, the sound is pure white noise, the sound of 3,000 tween screams ringing around the venue. Theoretically, the crowd is here to see the youngest Jonas’s new project, the Administration—the manifestation of his abiding affection for Minneapolis funk (“Love the funk,” sighed Jonas, in our TONY interview in April). But the reality, of course, is that the girls are here to see their teen idol; it probably wouldn’t make much difference if Jonas strode onstage dressed as Carmen Miranda and launched into a thrash-metal set.
Or would it? While the Administration is certainly a legit funk outfit, comprising members of Prince’s New Power Generation, the band’s sound is still fairly poppy (see our “Bold Questions: Nick Jonas” for a full rundown). There’s some great guitar solo-ing, from both NPG man Sonny Thompson and Jonas himself, but it’s nothing too difficult to digest for JoBros fans. If Jonas wants to move on, he’s making no sudden moves.
Click past the jump for the full recap.
The transition from teen pop star to proper musician doesn’t have to be awkward. Michael Jackson transformed from squeaky custester to zombie idol almost seamlessly, and George Michael moved from Wham! pin-up status to his “I Want Your Sex,” armpit-sniffing persona with ease. Indeed, the girl mayhem at tonight’s show is most suggestive of Shea Stadium–era Beatlemania by dint of its sheer volume, and the fact that Nick Jonas looks perplexed, even grumpy when he walks on. But one wonders if all these transitions were more easily made because the music was so damn good in the first place. The Jonas Brothers have a handful of great pop songs (last year’s superb “Paranoid” among them), but they are not a classic pop band. Similarly, Nick Jonas is still vocally yoked to the American Idol, soul-groan style of singing, whereas a performer like Jackson had found his voice even before it broke.
By and large, Jonas plays it safe at tonight’s show, wearing a shirt and tie, which he strips to reveal (gasp!) a V-neck T-shirt. He plays songs from the upcoming Administration album, as well as JoBros faves and a medley of his favorite songs of the year (including sing-along versions of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” and Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind”). By far the evening’s most interesting moments are when Jonas appears genuinely caught up in the music; when he sings in his (actually pretty awesome) funk falsetto, or, while singing a gospel-flecked ballad, he starts tugging at his shirt in apparent agony. You’re willing him, here, to go for a full-on, Prince-style spazz out.
For the screaming masses, however, the night’s most exciting moment is when Jonas calls on his big brothers (who are watching from the audience with mom) to join him onstage. The reunited trio plays “Please Be Mine,” and the girls go bananas. While the song itself is no revelation, there is an undeniable charm to seeing the boys together, and something rather touching about the elder JoBros’ obvious approval of their brother going solo.
By the end of the gig (which, through toilet-paper stuffed ears, feels like its full two hours), Nick Jonas genuinely seems to be enjoying himself. Was the frowning at the start of the show a genuine signal of his ambivalence at having his “serious” music project greeted only by screaming girls? Or was he just playing rock star? It’s generally adult men who are considered arbiters of taste, not glow-stick-waving teen girls, so Jonas has a long way to go if approval is what he wants. But closing the show with his current single, “Who I Am,” the pop star is visibly beaming. “I love you, New York,” he says, and adds a little tearily, “Thank you for loving me for who I am.” Like the music or not, Nick Jonas’s endeavors with the Administration seem utterly genuine—and that’s as good a start as any.