The Jonas Brothers in Portland – A Review

I think it's important to acknowledge that I am not in any way the target audience for the Jonas Brothers. In the sea of pre-teen girls and their mothers standing in line to get into the Rose Garden, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Committed to doing fun things with my daughter (despite my personal tastes in music), I had decided to take her to one of the most buzzed about concerts so far this year. I definitely felt out of place in an event dominated by debates over which Jonas Brother people think is 'cuter' (the consensus seems to be Joe).

The Crowd Waiting to See The Jonas BRothers

The Crowd Waiting to See The Jonas Brothers

As we waited for the show to start the stadium erupted in a deafening wave of screams any time anything Jonas Brothers related appeared on the overhead screens during the pre-show promotions. The Jonas Brothers seem to be able to instill that 'boy crazy pre-teen frenzy' that only a handful of boy bands can command. The sea of pre-teens waiting for the show carried fan signs, home-designed Jonas Brothers T-shirts, and were adorned by photos of the three Jonas Brothers.

As the lights dimmed the stadium was literally filled with screams (good thing I brought my Ear Love!). First to meet this adoring crowd was the relatively new Honor Society (watch the On Portland Interview with Honor Society), a band who described themselves as a 'Myspace Band' (or a band that built its following initially from myspace). While Honor Society only played a handful of songs, the audience responded exceptionally well to them. The final song from Honor Society, 'See U in The Dark', was the clear favorite of their set. The song snapped and popped like a good pop anthem, noticeably elevated from the rest of their set and is sure to become a hit. I was surprised at how short the set was; I would have expected them to do another song or two especially considering how well they were received.

Following Honor Society was a unique all-girl band from South Korea called Wonder Girls. Dressed in 60's chic (think The Supremes), Wonder Girls is an odd infusion of retro cool and bubble gum pop. I don't think that the audience for the Jonas Brothers really knew what to make of them. Their first set, a single song, was so short it was hard to get a real sense of them (check out this video of their first set). Wonder Girls performed a second number after Jordin Sparks's set and an introduction by Paul Jonas (the Jonas Brother's father) called Nobody. The song itself was pretty catchy but the dance that went along with it could only be described as odd. It'll be interesting to see if this Asian super group will find traction with American audiences. It could go either way.

Jordin Sparks, who I had seen a few years back, performed a much stronger set than the last time I saw her. Sparks had a much higher level of comfort on stage and seemed to connect well with the audience. Unfortunately there wasn't enough of spark in her performance and even her signature single "No Air" didn't have the punch that it should have. The highlight of Sparks's set was a rendition of Pretty Young Thing (PYT) in tribute to Michael Jackson, which Sparks performed with more energy and spunk than the rest of her set. Sparks seems constantly on the brink of breaking out and I think a lot of the raw goods are there, but she seems to be lacking the right material to bring her to the next level.

Pop Rock

The stadium filled with lights and smoke as the main event launched like a rocket ship. With Queen's 'We Will Rock You' blasting, Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas were raised from the depths of the center stage and spun around as if they were pop gods stuck in a doughnut display. The full stage configuration for the Jonas Brothers concert was impressive, presented as a 'theater in the round'. The stage brought the performers much closer to the audience and gave far more fans a really good seat over traditional staging. The light, smoke and stage show was nothing short of impressive. With layered video screens, hundreds of different light configurations and an ever-revolving center stage, there was always something catching the eye.

Musically I can't say I was amazingly won over by the Jonas Brothers. They are pure boy band pop through and through. The dynamic of the band is an interesting one. While many of the Jonas Brothers fans swoon over Joe Jonas, it's actually Nick Jonas who seems to have inherited most of his father's musical talent. Whether he's playing guitar, piano or drums Nick seems to be the dominant musical force of the trio. Joe saunters around the stage to the admiring screams of fans, but if you really pay attention you can see it's really Nick who's carrying the lead. The third brother (sort of like the fifth Beattle), Kevin seems to be happy in his supporting role, rarely taking center stage. Kevin seems firmly rooted in his backup position. For whatever reason, that dynamic just works and the band comes off as an unashamedly pop boy band that is more 'cute and swoon worthy' than sexual (like Justin Timberlake). I also really appreciate that although the band comes from a strong religious background, they don't bring that to their music.

While I may not have been completely won over by the Jonas Brothers' music, I was quite impressed by their performance. A highlight for me was Nick Jonas' rendition of "Black Keys" which was presented with him solo at a white piano in a cloud of smoke. After the song Nick spoke to the audience about his diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes and his commitment to push on in the face of adversity. The talk was an extremely skillful way of addressing a real serious issue (teenage suicide) and I thought that Nick Jonas did a phenomenal job of sending out an important message to his fans.

Impressive Jonas Brothers Staging

Impressive Jonas Brothers Staging

The set as a whole had its ups and downs as does their music. High points seemed to pivot around their break-out hits like "S.O.S" or "Burnin' Up" and fall flat around some of their weaker songs. A complete misstep was the performance of "Sweet Caroline", the notable Neil Diamond song. The band said they were doing the song for all the parents to get up and dance, but I think they've misjudged the age of their audience's parents. They would have done much better with a stand out Michael Jackson song than Manilow, and I was actually surprised that their set was absent of a song to pay tribute to Michael Jackson.

At a high or low the stage spectacular always seemed to keep the show flowing. A late set return of Jordin Sparks was an unexpected treat. Surrounded by the full lights and video spectacular, Sparks belted out the title track to her new album "Battlefield". The performances was legions beyond her opening set and showed the potential for Sparks when she has the right material. Also a particularly notable water effect was something I'd never seen at a concert before and was especially impressive.

I can't say that I was won over at the end and became a fan of the Jonas Brothers. I am clearly not their target audience, but having said that I did enjoy their show. The Jonas Brothers have put together a pure spectacle of light and sound that is entertaining to watch. For me, though, the real enjoyment was watching my daughter as she jumped, sang and swooned. Equipped with the right ear plugs, the screams of the fans were manageable and the stage show was entertaining enough to make the evening more than worth it.

For more information:

Geoff Kleinman

22 Comments

  1. Sweet Caroline wasn't one of Barry Manilow's songs;you're thinking of Neil Diamond.

  2. Wonder Girls' hit songs 'Nobody' and 'Tell Me' were all the rage in Korea when first released. In Asia, their dances are 'in' because well, the cute image sells. However in America…. Obviously, it doesn't. :S

  3. As a parent of a Jonas Fan I actually love them. I want to point out however the next time you rip the Jonas for doing a song for the parents make sure you get your information correct. The song Sweet Caroline was done by Neil Diamond not Barry Manilow. Barry Manilow never even covered that song.

  4. "Sweet Caroline" is by Neil Diamond, not Barry Manilow.

  5. Like I said…. The song wasn't really one that resonated with this parent :) I did make the correction in the body of the article though… Thanks!

  6. Wonder girls reviewed to be retro odd Asians. I'd say definitely what i had expected from close minded people. Why must Asians be judged so harshly for being different simply because they're Asian? If it were white girls dancing around the review would probably say, "cute bubbly white girls." Does no one try to give these girls a chance before implying they would fail in America? They put in as much energy into their performance as the Jonas', or Jordin Sparks.

  7. Dunny. I am actually quite a fan of Asia and Asian culture. I don't think they were odd because they were Asian, I think the were just retro and odd. If there were white girls dancing and acting like them I would have said the same thing.

    I don't think they'll fail here in America, but the audience didn't seem to know what to make of them. Part of which I think is attributed to the fact that they only did 2 songs.

  8. Thanks for your review. I'm a mom of a 13 year old, and have been following "the boys" since my daughter got their It's About Time album in 2006. We've seen them now all three times that they have come to portland (with Miley Cyrus in 2006, at the Schnitz in 2007 and this past weekend). I am also not their target audience, but you would be surprised at the number of mom's out there who are big fans!

    Regarding your comment that you thought they should have done a Michael Jackson tribute… Jordan Sparks did a good one, and personally, I think one tribute a show is good enough.

    I definitely agree with your thoughts on the Honor Society. They were great! And the Wondergirls… a little strange. And I have nothing against Asian culture. Like you said, as parents, we're not the target audience, but my group of 13 year olds, whom I dragged along with me to the show, didn't quite know what to make of them either.

    As for Sweet Caroline, love the song, but I don't think the Jonas Brothers did a great job with it. Much better in 2008 when they covered Air Supply's "take on me" for the parents in the audience!

    Thanks again for your review.

  9. sorry, i got those dates wrong… the JB's were in portland in 2007 with Miley Cyrus and at the schnitz in Feb. 2008.

  10. Can WG fans not bring race into every single review where people didn't like them or didn't know what to make of them. I'm Asian and I don't like them, okay. People can have differing opinions about a group without being accused of being close-minded. In fact only open-minded people would accept the fact that people aren't gonna like the same type of music and not be on the attack if someones disagrees with their opinion. I rather people be truthful then sugar coat stuff but really don't give a care about the group one way or the other. On a different note, I'm a little bit disappointed that Jordin Sparks didn't blow you away since I always thought she had a phenomenal voice and is really underrated as a singer. I guess she really needs to work on her stage presence since people think she's dull on stage. As for the JB, I will always think they are a first-rate group no matter what people say.

  11. One of our followers on Twitter commented that it would have been nice for The Wonder Girls to do a song in Korean. I completely agree with that. I think more than 2 song set split in two parts would have given everyone more of a sense of them.

    I actually like Jordin Sparks, I do think she has talent. I think her performance of Battlefield shows that. Unfortunately it also shows that her earlier set isn't up to her potential.

  12. Thanks for correcting the Barry Manilow error….The Jonas Brothers have made a point of saying that they were influenced by Neil Diamond for this cd and tour, hence the inclusion of the horns, so, it's great to see his name in this.

    I'm a mom, love the Jonas Brothers, love Honor Society and love Jordin Sparks, so, this tour is a dream for me.

    I'm sorry you did not have an overwhelmingly positive experience. We flew from arizona to see this show and the one in Tacoma..my dad came with us…so, 3 generations of Jonas fans.

    Jordin's voice is amazing. She has fantastic personality, judging from the crowds reaction to her in Portland and Tacoma, i can see her stepping over that breakout edge after this.

    Honor Society has such a phenomenal energy that the crowd responded to right away. Yes, See U in the Dark has hit single potential, but the rest of their music is amazing as well, and you just cannot beat the passion that they perform with.

    But back to the Jonas Brothers…yes, Nick is the leader of the group. No secret there…but saying Kevin is in a backup role? i disagree…he brings an amazing energy to the shows..no, he does not sing lead, but, I don't think that qualifies him as taking a background role.

    I don't classify JB as a boy band. sorry. missing from that stigmatizing label would be the choreographed dance numbers, and the majority of non band written material. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against boy bands, and have been quite entertained by my fair share, but calling the Jonas Brothers a boy band is really inaccurate. I guess one thing they might have in common would be amazing vocals. Perhaps I missed it, but i see no reference to the seamless back and forth of the lead vocals between Joe and Nick. They both sound amazing, and the 3 all sound amazing together. live. ever been to a concert where the vocals sound nothing like they did on the cd? that would account for most of the non jb shows i've been to…but these guys, and Honor Society, and Jordin all sound amazing live. Even without the huge show going on around them they can entertain.

    But I am glad you can say you enjoyed the show in the end, yes, seeing the joy on my girls faces is a real plus….

    I would like to add that every one of these performers are amazingly down to earth, gracious, and sweet to their fans. We have met Jordin, the Jonas Brothers and Honor Society, and after living through the rock stars of my youth, I have a hard time believing how sweet and how committed to their fans each of these performers are. They are not only good musicians and performers, they are good people….I love the combination. I realize you are reviewing the show…but I really see the performers personalities as bringing a lot to the show. They all made it a point to connect during the show with the fans. This is a huge part of why we are going to 5 shows this tour. If we wanted musicians to just sit on stage and play, we could stay at home and play the cd. it would certainly be better for our budget :)

    and thanks for the Honor Society interview….was that you? or someone else? these guys deserve all the exposure they can get :)

  13. @Katey Thanks for your comments, they are very welcome and appreciated. There were 2 interviews we did with Honor Society. The first one was done by my daughter and the 2nd by me. I do think they'll be going far.

  14. your daughter was adorable :)

    Yes, glad we agree that Honor Society will be going far…that's why we made the drive to california 3 times this spring to see them, once via las vegas. Love those guys :)

  15. It's funny that you used the phrase "the audience didn't know what to make of them" about the Wonder Girls because I used that exact phrase when talking about them on a Wonder Girls fan site. People need to know that we are merely describing the audience reaction to them, and aren't dumping on them.

    I went to the J.B.'s concert only to check out Nick, and because Miley likes them. Being a Miley fan, if she likes them, I like them. I'm writing because I'm puzzled about your description of them. I remember thinking that they were definitely playing Rock and Roll. I wouldn't even describe it as Power Pop. Does anybody out there really think they're playing Pop music? Feedback please.

    P.S. Does anyone else think Miley's song obsessed is about Nick?

  16. O.K. I went and looked at their set list and a couple of songs that I knew could be described as Pop; they must mix it up.

Leave a Reply