Outside of Madison Square Garden, it feels like time didn’t budge from 2008, the last time the Jonas Brothers had played the storied Manhattan venue. Back then, during their first three nights at the Garden, Nick Jonas couldn’t legally drive yet, none of them could even legally drink and they were the biggest band in the world. “Burnin’ Up” was inescapable and their third album, A Little Bit Longer, would drop the day after their NYC dates. They were breaking teen hearts all over the world, including those of their megastar peers like Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. They were even pulled into the Disney machine, getting their own film Camp Rock with then-opening act Demi Lovato.
Outside of Madison Square Garden, in 2019, it feels like Jonas Fever never left. Girls and women of all ages are wearing tour shirts from the band’s full history of live shows. There are maybe more begrudgingly present boyfriends than parents this time around, as well as a shocking number of excited young moms who dragged their confused young kids to relive mom’s teen years. Following a six year hiatus, it almost feels like the Jonas Brothers are bigger than ever.
It’s not easy for a boy band to come back, and it’s not typical for one to return to bigger numbers and more respect than they were getting during their first round as a group: their comeback single “Sucker” peaked at Number One on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Songs chart, and his remained on the chart for 26 weeks. It has been a massive radio hit as well.
Over the course of the show, it was easy to forget that their current, omnipresent summer smash even existed. The Jonas Brothers were set on taking you on an emotional rollercoaster through their journey. Aptly, they began their set with the song “Rollercoaster” off of June’s Happiness Begins. The country-tinged pop song followed the first of many mostly corny but frequently touching video packages that were meant to represent said journey. In the first one, you see present-day Nick, Joe and Kevin walk through sci-fi doorways in an empty room and emerge as kids, played by young, well-cast actors. Those kids find themselves thrust into a carnival where they gleefully run around in awe of their explosive surroundings. On stage, the real-life Brothers emerged from above the video screen in bright suits, Kevin on guitar while Nick and Joe clutched their microphones, taking turns hitting high notes and runs.
The set was a well-coordinated mash-up of classic and new JoBros. They followed “Rollercoaster” with their first Disney-based hit, “S.O.S.” The audience erupted with surprise at how early the song came, but maybe the secret to the group’s rekindled success is their mix of self-awareness with nostalgia. In interviews, they have welcomed questions about the past and have been open about what tore them apart (solo careers). The “S.O.S.” energy remained for the next few Happiness Begins tracks. During “Only Human,” they are in peak boy band form doing some coordinated squatting with their backing band and a very Backstreet Boys strut as just the trio from one side of the stage to another.
“That’s Just the Way We Roll” featured a rare diversion from the fame carnival video package, bringing the rainy cityscape of their A Little Bit Longer album cover to life behind them (though the song was not even technically on that album). After “Fly With Me” and an outfit change, Kevin Jonas came on stage to state his own shock at the fact that this was their second of two nights back at MSG. “If you told me two years ago we would be doing this again,” he began, “I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Soon, the suit-less, muscle-bearing boy band made their way to the B-stage on the other side of the room. The smaller platform levitated during “Hesitate,” and when they were brought back to the ground, they took a fan request to perform “Goodnight and Goodbye” from their self-titled second album.
Following the request came a series of solo songs. They belted “Gotta Find You” from the film Camp Rock, technically a Joe song though the entire band was in the film. Kevin and Joe left the stage while a video package showed present-day Nick meeting with the younger version of himself in the desert. Alone at the B-stage, Nick launched into his biggest solo hit “Jealous.” But when Joe joined in to sing it with him, turning the song into a bigger banger than it already was, it felt like it should have always been a Jonas Brothers song to begin with. Back on the main stage, Joe and Nick then performed “Cake by the Ocean” by Joe’s other band DNCE while video of Joe and his younger self jumping in a ball pit screened behind them.
Kevin wasn’t on stage during the solo career showcase; during those last six years, he mostly stayed out of show business, opting instead to become a general contractor and run a couple tech start-ups, as one does. He got his own video package: younger Kevin meets present-day Kevin in a forest where present-day Kevin is heroically holding his two young daughters. He guides younger Kevin to a piano, as real-life, on-stage Kevin gets behind the piano as well, making for the most touching of all the video metaphors throughout the show. Nick and Joe joined him for “Comeback,” ending the song staring out into the screaming crowd before launching into their 2008 power ballad “When You Look Me in the Eyes.” The extended video metaphor wrapped during “I Believe” as the brothers joined their younger selves and each other to watch the fireworks above the carnival.
Back on the B-stage, they began a medley of their older songs, finally going back to their pre-Disney 2006 debut It’s About Time to perform the deliciously pop-punk “Mandy” along with other singles like “Hold On” and “Tonight.” The video screen played clips of the accompanying music videos, showcasing the various tragedies and successes of their hair evolutions. They ended their main set with their cover of Busted’s “Year 3000.”
A short break before the encore ended with both flames and the brothers catapulting from beneath the stage. They performed “Burnin’ Up” sans an appearance from their former bodyguard/song’s guest rapper Big Rob. That was alright as the entire audience was able to scream that verse back to them. “Sucker” closed the party out, and the pairing proved that a boy band’s past and present can coexist without confrontation.
“We can’t wait to come back,” Nick said during the encore, to one of the biggest eruptions of applause during the night. Let’s hope there isn’t another six year gap until the next one.
Jonas Brothers Set List:
“That’s Just the Way We Roll”
“Fly With Me”
“Used to Be”
“Goodnight and Goodbye” (fan request)
“Gotta Find You” (Camp Rock)
“Jealous” (Nick Jonas cover)
“Cake by the Ocean” (DNCE cover)
“When You Look Me in the Eyes”
Medley: “Mandy”/“Paranoid”/“Got Me Going Crazy”/“Play My Music”/“World War III”/“Hold On”/“Tonight”
“Year 3000” (Busted cover)