Jonas Brothers & Karmin at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 8/7/2013
Photos by Jim Bricker
Jonas Brothers, Mike Tompkins and Karmin Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion August 7, 2013
Pop music is synonymous with screaming girls, a young audience, and music that will make you want to dance no matter how hard you fight it.
Catching the Jonas Brothers in concert checks off all three things on that list, but there's still something about the group that feels less like pop music and more like a rock band with a penchant for writing catchy songs.
That, or maybe the hiatus that the group took for the last three years helped shape a new direction. At least that's the way it felt while watching their opening acts.
The evening began when Karmin --singer/rapper Amy Heidemann and keyboardist/singer Nick Noonan -- took the stage, boasting their genre of "swag-pop" to an audience that was more than willing to listen. On tour, the group utilizes the help of a backing band to help fill out a sound that is often as loud and in-your-face as the lyrics they write, which will be featured on their upcoming debut full-length, Pulses.
What was most enjoyable was to see Heidemann bring her A game to the same stage that she shared with all men (the only exception being a backing singer for Jonas Brothers). But not only did it show that she could hold her own as the only female musician on a tour full of men, it also gave the audience (mainly younger girls) a chance to see a woman marching to the beat of her own drum.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Heidemann has a set of pipes that can rival Warped Tour-era Katy Perry, with the energy of Paramore's Haley Williams and looks that could kill. And of course, she can rap her ass off.
What was interesting about Karmin, however, is that at times, their sound teetered on the edge of rock -- the kind of rock that could make or break a kid's love for the genre. Somehow, the group found a place in the center of writing pop hits, hip-hop beats and rock music that was tolerable enough for parents, yet still made kids want to dance and have a good time.
But Karmin wasn't the only artist brought on tour to get the fans dancing. In between sets, Mike Tompkins, an a capella DJ, covered hits from Daft Punk's "Harder Better Faster Stronger" to Macklemore's "Can't Hold Us."
And though he was entertaining both musically and visually, it would have been interesting to hear some original material from Tompkins, who made all of his beats live using only his mouth, before singing over the loops. And to be honest, he wasn't half-bad.
If you would have asked me four years ago if I thought the Jonas Brothers would be touring with two bands that mainly feature hip-hop-injected pop music, I would have said hell no. But even Miley Cyrus' musical tastes have matured, and these artists are finally finding influence from outside their Disney bubble.
Even so, they're still driving the pre-teens crazy.
As the lights dimmed down, the William Tell Overture came over the speakers, creating what felt like controlled chaos in the bowl. Girls began rushing toward the aisles as the crowd let out a collective shriek that nearly drowned out all other sound. And just when it seemed like the Jonas Brothers were teasing their fans, Nick Jonas appeared on stage playing guitar, as his brothers Joe and Kevin made their way down either of the two main aisles.
The band started with "First Time," their most recent single off of their upcoming album, V. What immediately stood out, however, was how intimate the show felt, despite the fact that it was being held at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. For one, the lawn was closed off, but even more surprising was the fact that the group wasn't performing in an arena (such as Toyota Center) with their own custom stage and a massive lighting backdrop.
Instead, it seems like the JoBros decided to streamline their performance to what was necessary, despite the fact that they have seven other musicians that make up their backing band. Broken down, there were two keyboardists, one female backup singer, one saxophone player, a bassist and another guitarist (on top of the two guitars played by any combination of the Jonas Brothers at any given time).
But even with the arguably superfluous amount of instrumental backing, it was apparent that the Jonas Brothers talented as they worked their way through a discography that would send their fans into a frenzy each and every time, and their light show wasn't skimpy.
Instead of rolling out a large, labyrinth-like stage, the Jonas Brothers took to the front of the stage, while the rest of the band performed in boxes of sorts, which had projections and videos playing on them throughout the night. Of course, the hit of the evening came when the brothers introduced a mic stand with a camera attached to it, giving their fans an up close and personal look at the boys before they turned it around to face the screaming audience. (If you were wondering, yes, their skin is immaculate.)
They even picked one lucky fan, Devon, to sing with them on stage while they performed "Still In Love With You," for submitting a video to their Vine contest.
On their newer material, however, things felt a little different.
With tracks like "Five" and "Mean to You," the brothers rolled out a more mature sound that felt influenced by recent breakout electronic and hip hop artists, such as Frank Ocean.
Still, it wasn't just their new sound or the fact that the three boys have grown into young men. Something about the Jonas Brothers definitely sets them apart from other pop stars, especially every "boy band" out there.
Sure, they play their own instruments, but that's not it either.
What's most refreshing about the JoBros is that, despite their status as heartthrobs, the boys handle their title with grace. While other men twice their age are busy dancing around grabbing their package, they have found a way to accept the love of their fans while still holding onto their integrity and tact.
I'm not a parent, but for as much shit as the Jonas Brothers have caught over the years, I will say that they're doing what most pop stars aren't willing to -- give the fans what they want without losing themselves. If that's not respectable, then I don't know what is.
The Crowd: Little girls, teenagers, young women and Moms. Basically, just a lot of ladies with the lung capacity to prove it. There were a few guys, but they were like finding a needle in a haystack.
Random Notebook Dump: So many "selfies" are being taken here tonight that I'm probably in at least five or six on Facebook by now.
Overhead In the Crowd: "When they look at us, do heart hands!" While one girl sitting nearby said this, nearly every girl under the age of 18 was doing this motion with her hands.
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