S.O.S.: Fans' screams can't save Jonases

Entertainment Concert Review

August 07, 2008|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,Sun pop music critic

All the trappings befitting a group poised for superstardom were in place: Big-budget industrial-looking set, check. Pyrotechnics, check.

Supersoaker guns shooting yards of sudsy foam? Check. The Jonas Brothers, the latest product of Disney's almighty teen machine, packed 1st Mariner Arena last night with a calculated spectacle of a show.

The music - tuneful and fizzy with overly familiar punk-lite guitar riffs and chord progressions - was nearly drowned out by the deafening screams from prepubescent girls filling the sold-out arena.

With two uneven albums under their belt (2006's sugary It's About Time and the more focused self-titled set released last year), the heartthrob siblings from New Jersey are the hottest act in pop right now. Thanks largely to Camp Rock, the Disney Channel movie starring the Jonases that drew 8.9 million viewers when it premiered in June, the New Jersey act has saturated teen and mainstream press. And Burning Up, the band's summer tour, is packing arenas and stadiums across the nation.

The "phenomenon" may have little to do with the music, which can be charming - but in small doses. Ninety minutes of the Jonases' thin, nasally timbres and whiny, hopelessly maudlin lyrics grate the nerves.

But the brothers' stage presence has improved since they opened for Hannah Montana at 1st Mariner about six months ago.

After a screechy and tuneless 37-minute set from Demi Lovato, Disney's new It Girl, the Jonases (Nick, 15, Joe, 18, and Kevin, 20) came on to the tune of Queen's "We Will Rock You." Flames shot from either side of the flashy, multitier set, where a five-piece all-female string section and a four-piece rhythm section sat.

The brothers opened with "This is the Way We Roll," a cut from the group's self-titled debut on Hollywood Records, the Disney-owned label. And the group stuck to cuts from that album. (A new CD, A Little Bit Longer, is due out in another week.)

The same sprightly pop-rock heard on the album was re-created almost note-for-note on stage.

Although one up-tempo song was almost indistinguishable from the other, the overall set was well-paced with nary a lull. Midway, though, things got overly maudlin. After a short, Behind the Music-style clip that centered on Nick's recent diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes, the somewhat aloof younger brother sat down at the piano.

He crooned a self-penned ballad ostensibly about feeling different after the diagnosis. But the lyrics were self-consciously vague enough to be about any sad situation.

"This song is for every broken dream, every high and every low," Nick said in a tone that was almost nauseatingly melodramatic. "This song [a long pause], this song is for you."

After that was over, the Jonases cranked up the fizzy pop-rock again.

Halfway into the show, they seemed to loosen up even more, acting their ages. They turned cartwheels down the catwalk. Attempting coordinated acrobatic moves, they tumbled over each other and laughed.

Then, during one of their anonymous hooky songs, they pulled out the supersoaker guns and sprayed the screaming girls on the arena floor with yards and yards of sudsy foam. The move was so boyish, so Nickelodeon, so appropriate.

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

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