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Review: Jonas Brothers rise to precise perfection in return to Amalie Arena in Tampa

The Jonas Brothers performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Aug. 10, 2019. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)
The Jonas Brothers performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Aug. 10, 2019. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)
Published Aug. 10, 2019

Everything didn't have to be so perfect. It didn't need to be so carefully choreographed, so color-coordinated, right down to the precise Crayola contrast of their blue, green and orange suits. The Jonas Brothers could've strutted into Amalie Arena straight from spin class in Lululemon leggings, and the sold-out crowd of 16,500 would've screamed like it was the year 3000.

Then again, coordination is everything in the BTS-dominated boy band universe of 2019, isn't it? And so maybe the Jonas Brothers' reunion tour, which made its third stop in Disney-adjacent Tampa on Saturday, probably needed every inch of its impeccable production to justify half a year's worth of hype.

Getting here has been a journey, as anyone who's seen their forthright (and, frankly, pretty great) documentary Chasing Happiness can tell you. The tweet-length version: Nick was a prodigy, Joe a restless but fun-loving wild card, and they both started to feel like the older and increasingly domesticated Kevin was starting to hold them back.

But after six years apart, Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas showed they can still run a three-man weave as tight as any act in pop, effortlessly hugging, harmonizing and hippity-hopping across their enormous stage. As soon as they descended from the rafters for opener Rollercoaster, backed by a shower of sparks, it was clear just how serious they're taking this comeback -- no expense spared, no performance un-maximized, no shots of tequila left unswigged.

"One thing that's different about Jonas Brothers shows now is it seems like people came to drink," Nick said. "So I think it's only right that we join them."

Oh, yes, the Jonas Brothers are, like, big boys now. They're married and everything, a fact that gave the evening a dusting of Hollywood gold. Nick's wife Priyanka Chopra Jonas was absent, but fans did catch a glimpse of Joe's wife, Emmy-nominated Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner, who sang and danced with fourth JoBro Frankie and other friends and fam in a VIP section by the B stage.

Other than that, the guys were more or less as fans remembered them. There was Kevin, 31, figuratively and literally the dad-rocker of the bunch, soft-stepping with his guitar in classicist fashion. There was Joe, 29, usually in the center, never picking up an instrument, handling lead vocals or harmonies as needed. And there was Nick, 26, the do-it-all heartthrob, grabbing the occasional guitar or simply stripping off his jacket to give his cantaloupian biceps some breathing room.

This wasn't one of those comebacks where they only played the new, grown-up stuff -- not that that would've been a bad thing; the poolside panache of summer single Cool is a marked musical evolution from the cutesy middle-school mewling of Lovebug. But they remain infectiously appealing when they lean into their power-pop lane, as they showed on the snappy Strangers (a new one) and That's Just the Way We Roll (a really old one), and a medley of oldies infused with new, 2019 life (Mandy, Paranoid, Play My Music, Hold On, Tonight, etc.).

Nick rassled the reins and took the lead on his biggest solo hit, the steamy Jealous, before Joe came back out to harmonize and bounce through his band DNCE's rollicking Cake By the Ocean (still the best song produced by any Jonas, FIGHT ME), with Nick playing that irresistible lead lick.

And then out came Kevin in a white suit, playing a grand piano in front of videos of his family, while Nick and Joe joined for (what else) Comeback. They slapped fives and shook hands and, not to belabor the point, but it was all so slick and smooth and choreographed and perfect that it was almost like they'd secretly remained a boy band this whole time.

Such a performance might give the haters-gonna-say-it's-fake crowed ammo to keep using the JoBros as a punch line -- if it wasn't for the fact that, 'cause they're brothers, their specific chemistry and ease performing with and amongst one another would be hard to fake. The comeback feels real because, well, the Jonas Brothers still feel real. Even after six years away, you couldn't make them up if you tried.

The night's main opener, Bebe Rexha, was herself a living testament to the Jonas Brothers' hiatus -- her entire solo career basically fits within those six years. And she heaved hook after hook at the crowd, some she wrote (Eminem and Rihanna's Monster), some of her own (G-Eazy's Me, Myself and I; Florida Georgia Line's Meant to Be), all with an arena-sized presence. Twerking and flossing through her tulle tutu on Hey Mama and projecting Katy Perrian pep throughout Take Me Home, she rose to the occasion on a night she called a huge opportunity.

But it would be hard, by the end, for fans to leave singing anything but a Jonas Brothers song. They closed with three of their signature hits: The Year 3000, a pyro-assisted Burnin' Up, and latest, snappiest mega-single Sucker, their first song ever to reach No. 1.

Before they played it, Nick asked them to pull up the house lights so he could get a look at every fan on their feet.

"I want to see every single face during this next, last song," he said. And then he added the benediction every fan wanted to hear:

"This is just the beginning."

The perfect capper to a dream comeback, right? The JoBros didn't have to go there, but they did. They've had six years to prepare for this. They still know precisely what fans want. And they still know exactly how to sell it.

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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