I don't know if Monday night's Fiserv Forum tour stop was the best Jonas Brothers concert to hit Milwaukee – but it was inarguably the most.
The boy band played for almost as long as Christopher Nolan's three-hour atomic blockbuster "Oppenheimer" – and with a 14-piece band backing them and a voracious crowd joyously shrieking at every song and sexy swaggery step, almost as loud as the birth of the bomb too. Wanted to hear your favorite JoBros song? You almost certainly heard it ... considering they played practically all of them, more than 60 plus even a Christmas song because 'tis the season. The only thing missing from Monday's mammoth kitchen sink of a show was the Bonus Jonas.
Otherwise, if you were a JoBro junkie, Monday night featured everything one could hope for, save for maybe an invitation to share a backstage milkshake with your brother of choice and discuss "Camp Rock" fan fiction – and even if you're far from a JoBro aficienado, it was hard not to be impressed by such an intensive, epic and entertaining effort.
Dramatically rising from underneath the corners of their elaborate main stage – seemingly shaped like a flying V guitar with color-changing "Tron" lighting outlining it all – Nick, Joe and Kevin cracked open their marathon performance with one of their latest tracks, "Celebrate!", along with the stomp-clappy 2020 single "What a Man Gotta Do," all capped with fireworks. With the help of their brassy and bouncy backing band, the trio sounded great, their light and energetic pop arrangements resonating full in the Fiserv Forum space – all while their playful poses and points certainly resonated with the jam-packed crowd scream-singing along to each track, microphone pose and meander around the stage.
That was just an auditory amuse bouche, however, for the pre-Thanksgiving pop feast the JoBros had cooked up for the evening: a five-course "Eras Tour"-style musical meal through the ages and albums. After a nostalgic video recap of their moppy-haired earliest days, complete with "Camp Rock" clips and climbing MySpace views, they dug in with their self-titled debut (sorry, "It's About Time"; maybe another time) and the ecstatically sing-along-able "S.O.S."
The brothers' admirable goal was to try to mow through as much of their tracklist as possible – but while it certainly kept things energetically moving and fans surely appreciated hearing all of their favorite tracks, no matter how deep the cuts, quantity wasn't always quality on Monday night. The songs always sounded good – but during each phase of the setlist, for the sake of not playing until Packers/Lions kickoff on Thanksgiving, the JoBros' full-course meal would become more of a hurried tapas menu, serving up quick bites in a speedrun medley. And unfortunately, as with small-plate dining, I kind of hate it, the tiny morsels filling time and space but never quite wholly satisfying.
During these segments – blasting through the likes of "Hold On," "That's Just the Way We Roll," "Just Friends," "Games" and more, in the case of their self-titled section – it became a struggle to really get into any songs or into the rhythm of the show, each tune wrapping up just as you started to move, groove and sing along. (The on-stage personality threatened to take a ding as well; surely it's tough trying to focus on being fun, loose and playful with the crowd while trying to stay on track with the constantly shifting setlist.) What was mostly a night of indulging and savoring your favorite songs detoured instead into an occasional sprint through 30-second iTunes previews.
Thankfully, these JoBro blitzkriegs weren't the whole night, fittingly fast and saved almost entirely for the deeper cuts. (A truncated "Year 3000" is a year I don't want to travel to.) So, in the self-titled album era, after wrapping up a batch of ballads from their smaller acoustic stage on the other side of the Fiserv Forum, the brothers returned to dishing out full servings with "When You Look Me In The Eyes," a particularly notable selection last night since the boy band filmed their music video long ago at The Rave/Eagles Ballroom. And after luxuriating in that special pick, they closed out with "Year 3000" – which, 15 years later, is still doing fine as an outrageously poppy banger.
"Eras" I mean albums, the JoBros would mix in some of their latest tracks – and while normally "we're going to play some stuff off the new record" at a concert are words on par with "let's split up" in a horror movie, the new "The Album" tracks held their own amongst the favorites. "Summer Baby" is a plucky, strutty, sky-high falsetto favorite, while "Vacation Eyes" and "Sail Away" sound like lost groovy smooth jams from the '70s – an aesthetic only emphasized by a band member busting out a melodica solo. A good way to make the new stuff hit as hard as the classics, too? Have Joe Jonas sexily slink his way around the stage and effortlessly pop the high falsetto notes on "Vacation Eyes," much to the crowd's decibel-defying squeeing delight.
The only time during the new stuff segment where the energy dipped and the crowd dared distract themselves with their phones or friends was the adulthood ballad "Little Bird." I know I personally was certainly distracted as hearing the Jonas Brothers sing about parenting aged me like the guy at the end of "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade" drinking from the wrong Holy Grail.
The evening moved onto the "A Little Bit Longer" phase next – with more intro video featuring even more floppy hair and, unfortunately, even more truncated setlist songs. A majority of this album – "Can't Have You," "Sorry," "Shelf," "Got Me Goin' Crazy," "Video Girl" and even more – was given the small-plate serving treatment. Though even in iPod shuffle size, some tracks still popped – such as "Pushin' Me Away" and "Tonight," both rocking numbers that made time for with some ferocious jam sessions amongst the hustle. The album's titular rocking ballad, though, got full-song privileges along with – of course – "Lovebug," the boy band's hit that's all sweet beachy romance vibes satisfyingly building to a volcano of rock erupting for the final stanzas. And speaking of fire and hot lava, the segment wrapped with the full "Burnin' Up" complete with flames blasting from all across the main stage.
The pop hit would've made a more than respectable closer – and it basically did, closing out the first half of the show and leading into an intermission. Yes, the JoBros have built up enough cred and enough of a catalogue since their Disney/"Camp Rock" days to put on an gigantic multi-hour show befitting an intermission. What a world.
The trio eventually returned with far less sleeves, 66 percent more leather pants, Kevin almost dressed in Napoleon Dynamite cosplay and Nick evolving into Mark Wahlberg during the break. (Maybe it was just the backwards Bucks hat.)
After a trio of new "The Album" tracks – "Waffle House," "Montana Sky" and "Miracle," all throwback in style mixing in '70s funk and peppy jangly choruses – the trio threw it back properly to the "Lines, Vines and Trying Times" record. Hitting favorites obvious (segment bookends "Fly With Me" and "Paranoid") and more obscure ("Don't Speak," "What Did I Do To Your Heart"), the only real hiccup in this chunk was a rare production oddity: To get close-ups of Nick at the piano, a camera operator was positioned with a handheld lens on the small B-stage right in front of Jonas – good footage for the screens, but bad placement for those watching live and seeing a random crew member JoBro-blocking your view. The show, though, was so energetic, epic and effervescent – even heading well into its second hour – that an extremely minor inconvenience like that couldn't be horribly held against it.
In the timeline, after "Lines, Vines and Trying Times" came the boy band's hiatus, but the tour stop managed to politely wallpaper over that with their festive Christmas song "Like It's Christmas" – complete with "snow" falling from the rafters and Joe casually donning a Santa scarf and sparkling elf hat tossed onto the stage. While the band separated during this phase, though, they were certainly still working – in fact arguably putting out two of their most notable songs, the sexy slinky "Jealous" via Nick and the infectious party anthem "Cake By the Ocean" via Joe and DNCE. The two solo tracks maintained the show's unrelenting propulsion, with help from a vigorous solo from the band's guitarist, rocking out even while flat on the ground getting leaf-blown by crew members trying to clear the latest confetti hailstorm.
The party took a turn for its next song, though not an uninvited one: "Walls," a full-throated folksy gospel-tinged emotional roar painted onto an ethereal electronic wall of sound canvas. The new track played like an emotional burst for Joe, falling to the ground at the end and briefly popping his more aloof cool guy sexy swagger bubble.
Thus began "Happiness Begins" – and the beginning of the end, not that anyone in Fiserv Forum could be disappointed since they'd already gotten more than their money's worth from the night's performance. But there were still hits to come – from "Cool," to the chill Caribbean vibes of "Only Human" and a few more bite-sized medleys. For anyone starting to get drained well past the two-hour mark, the guys kept things interesting on stage as well (not that the enthusiastic crowd Monday could ever be disinterested in Joe, Nick and Kevin) with buoyant dance breaks and solos from the backing band as well as a makeshift kiss cam during one of the later crooning ballads.
After almost an Scorsese film-esque running time, the Jonas Brothers were ready to call it a night with "Sucker" and the surprisingly subdued – if thematically fitting – closer "Leave Before You Love Me."
Thanksgiving may be a few days away still, but the fans in attendance Monday night left already grateful after the epic evening of song and entertainment – a night that demonstrated how far the brothers have graduated from their breezy Disney boy band days, not just more prolific but more accomplished in their pop sound. And while maybe more wasn't entirely more with cramming in as many songs as possible to the point that some barely qualified for ringtone length, all fans still surely left full and sated by this pop feast – no need for dessert.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.