TAMPA — It's not easy being the Jonas Brothers. Sure, they have millions of squealing fans, lucrative Disney deals, impossibly rad hair. But after a short, refreshing reign as unmarked rockers, Nick, Joe and Kevin have become boys-to-men tabloid fare stuck in the celebrity jet stream. There are now as many snide punch lines about them as JB posters adorning tweenage lockers.
Have rampant rumors of their dating life tarnished their rep? Is the magic kaput once fans grow old enough to order a margarita? It's getting tricky for the trio from Wyckoff, N.J. Sales of new album Lines, Vines and Trying Times have been disappointing, and a new Disney Channel show is a rush-job dud.
But hold on, let's get back to those squeals.
After all, 19,534 fans showed up for JB's 21-song, 110-minute sold-out show at the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday. That's more than Green Day and Judas Priest drew to recent gigs in the same venue — combined. So for all the threats of a shaky future, the JoBros aren't done yet. Most musicians can only dream of the ear-splitting adulation heaped on these dudes.
(By the way, Burger King is the official sponsor of this tour, but if I'm in Advil's marketing department, I'd start making calls. How loud was it? Imagine putting your head in a jet engine while wearing an angry wombat for a hat.)
After opening sets by Honor Society and Jordin Sparks (the American Idol star would later return to perform Battlefield with the headliners), JB took to a massive spinning stage, which was centered in the round and featured two side platforms plus a lighting rig straight out of George Lucas' daydreams. It was so ginormous, it was often hard to keep track of the lil' buggers.
Sixteen-year-old Nick (the Cute One), 20-year-old Joe (the Funny One) and 21-year-old Kevin (the Tito) excel at guitar-based jangle pop, sheer athleticism and cool-kid charm. Their self-penned pop is getting same-soundy these days, but mine were minority ears at the show. From opener Paranoid to encore Burnin' Up, fans reacted to each cut, supplemented by a big backing band, as if it were the second coming of Let It Be. (Go ask your parents.)
Hits such as That's Just the Way We Roll and Hold On betrayed Joe and Nick as yelpy singers, but the show was built on expensive distractions. Two violinists, flanking Nick at a white baby grand, lifted from below the stage for the new Fly With Me. On a wild side stage that lifted dangerously high, Joe warbled Gotta Find You from cable phenom Camp Rock. For the coolest trick, the boys performed Lovebug in a cone of rain; it sure looked like they were manipulating great sheets of water to spell out lyrics.
And in a smart, cheeky thank-you to parents for putting up with all those repeat listens in the minivan, JB covered Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline. Who knows? Maybe if the Jonas Brothers lose the young fans, they'll move in on the moms. After all, with that hair, they can do anything.
Sean Daly can be reached at (727) 893-8467 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.