Jonas Brothers / Photos: Clayton Taylor
“It’s good to be back here with you again,” Nick Jonas told a sold-out crowd at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers.
I didn’t recall that the Jonas Brothers had been here before, and unless they played a Walmart Shareholders concert or something, the last record I can find of them in this state is a 2008 stop at Alltell Arena (now Simmons Bank Arena) in Little Rock.
Maybe he meant that concert, or perhaps he didn’t know exactly where he was performing on Thursday night. Maybe he knew that the band’s fan base doesn’t particularly care about distance – I saw someone with a sign that said she drove 18 hours for the show. Or maybe he just meant that it was good to perform anywhere. The band had a massive tour following their 2019 reunion, then paused again last year as coronavirus restrictions emptied venues. The “Remember This” tour with Kelsea Ballerini and Jordan McGraw, which required proof of vaccines or negative COVID-19 tests for all attendees, kicked off in August.
Next at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion
Who: Dierks Bentley
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22
Where: Arkansas Music Pavilion, Rogers
Cost: Starting at $41 plus fees
Tickets: 479-443-5600 or amptickets.com
I don’t mean to harp on the idea that a band wouldn’t know precisely where they were – lots of acts don’t know where their tour bus takes them. The performers read the name of the city from the top of a set list that a crew member tapes to the stage in front of each microphone. Then, the band members adjust their mid-song banter accordingly.
But I think it’s illustrative of the Jonas Brothers’ approach – their music just sort of “is.” It’s not exactly rock, nor is it “pop punk” like I’ve seen in a few reviews. Nick Jonas, who has enjoyed the most successful solo career of the three brothers who make up the band, certainly leans in a pop and R&B direction, but that’s not quite where things land when he’s performing with his brothers.
And utilitarian is the approach for the band’s stage show, too – the setup is surprisingly sparse for such a massive undertaking. The brothers got the front half of the stage to roam around, dance and trade places. The large backing band – with as many as three guitars, a bass guitar, two background vocalists, percussion and drums – got the rest of the stage behind the brothers. Three massive video boards were directly behind everyone, but instead of showing clips, the screens were used almost exclusively as another avenue to show off the faces of the brothers. Each got their own video board, basically.
Each brother did get a 30-second-or-so video clip to describe a childhood memory, something that connected them to music. Nick’s clip talked about he learned how to play drums at 3 years old. We were then treated to a drum solo from Nick. It lasted maybe 30 seconds, and by the time I thought to start counting, it was already over.
He played drums well. He also played guitar intermittently during the show, as did his brother Kevin. Middle brother Joe didn’t play an instrument. He was there to sing and dance – and to briefly pull aside his denim jacket once to reveal a little bit of his shoulder. The crowd went absolutely wild for that.
It was an enthusiastic audience assembled for the show, many with signs or shirts from previous tours. It was at least 70% female, too. I saw at least one men’s restroom that had been turned into a women’s restroom by venue management. Men were welcome to use the portable toilets nearby.
It’s hard to pin down an average age of the crowd. It was definitely the first concert for many in attendance – the band is still popular among the Disney Channel demographic that shot the group to popularity. But there were also people that have grown up alongside the brothers. Someone who was 16 when the band started performing together is now 32 – or about the same age as the trio of brothers themselves.
The setlist featured the full Jonas experience, complete with solo songs from Nick’s career and a pair of tracks from Joe’s side project DNCE. At least one of his DNCE bandmates, JinJoo Lee, joined him onstage for that song. I must admit I’ve heard the song “Cake by the Ocean” a hundred times but had no idea it was from a Jonas-related project. But that sort of describes the band, too – they are ubiquitous, and they’ve been doing this for longer than we might imagine. The setlist also covered the full span of their time together, as evidenced by the final two songs of their 20-plus-song setlist. They played “Year 3000,” released in 2006, then closed with “Sucker,” a No. 1 hit from 2019.
Here’s how long they’ve been doing this – about midway through her set, Ballerini showed a video clip of herself from 2008. In it, she talks of her desire to meet the Jonas Brothers one day because “they like writing songs and I do too.”
Kelsea Ballerini / Photos: Clayton Taylor
She’s now a country(ish) star with crossover appeal. She last performed at the AMP as an opener for Lady A – then called Lady Antebellum – in 2017. I liked her more Thursday when she leaned into those country tendencies, such as with “Hole in the Bottle,” or stayed in singer-songwriter mode. When she tried to veer into a pop star territory, she just sounded overproduced. Her on-screen videos were far more elaborate than the brothers’ videos, and I’m not convinced she’s far behind them in terms of star power.
I did not get to watch any of McGraw’s opening set because of traffic getting into the venue. (Side note: I thought development around the AMP, including the construction of some parking decks, would lessen time getting into the venue. But that’s not been my experience recently. The new to-dos surrounding the venue, particularly Top Golf, seem to create their own traffic that is present with or without AMP visitors). McGraw did come out to share an unidentified drink from a red solo cup with the Jonas Brothers. It was McGraw’s 35th birthday, so they wanted to chide him and get the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday.” The crowd happily obliged.
The night was a celebration, after all. People got to hear a popular band sing the songs they came to hear. The opening acts went over well. The weather was flawless. And that’s all great, no matter where in the world you are.