By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
You could see it in his eyes. Nick Jonas, the youngest of the chart-topping trio of Disney-backed siblings who call Westlake home, had just wrapped up the January 2 live performance debut of his new side project, Nick Jonas & The Administration, and here he was, upstairs in a sectioned-off portion of the Dallas House of Blues' Foundation Room, pacing back and forth, looking like but a shadow of the confident frontman he had appeared to be just minutes before, when his headlining set came to its close.
For once, he looked his age of 17 years old. For once, he looked nervous.
Then, a sudden rush of conviction: Before anyone else in the room had the chance, he spoke.
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"What'd you think of the show?" he asked almost sheepishly, his eyes darting back and forth. It wasn't industry small-talk. Nor was it the normal glad-handing that tends to take place in these situations. Far from the normal, confident stare he so often showcases on camera and onstage, his face was flushed with palpable concern. Having once caught his Disney Channel show J.O.N.A.S., I can say this much with certainty: This was honest-to-goodness self-doubt. Nick Jonas just isn't that good of an actor.
I answered his query: For such a young musician, he's indeed a fine performer. His experience playing sold-out arena shows with the Jonas Brothers no doubt helped on that front. And his band, The Administration, which consists mostly of members of Prince's New Power Generation, showcased a mind-boggling level of musicianship at this first performance.
As for the music? Well, it managed to surprise. As advertised, this wasn't the same pop schlock that he and his older brothers have been putting out since their 2006 debut; rather, this was rootsy, rocky fare with some pop undertones to make it easily digestible for the young fans in attendance. There were ballads, of course, but also a few surprisingly brooding and driving blues- and roots-rock efforts that showcased the young singer-songwriter's expanding tastes. All in all, it was a far more enjoyable experience than could've been expected.
At this, he smiled—just a little bit—and seemed to stand a few inches taller.
"It felt good," he said, starting to sound somewhat satisfied.
Really, though: How could it not feel good? For the entirety of his hour-long show, the House of Blues was filled with the screams and squeals and shrieks of a rabid teenage girl fan base. Certainly, this solo debut from the youngest and reportedly most-talented member of the Jonas Brothers reaped the benefits of that other outfit's success, whether or not that was Nick's aim.
"I guess there's just a sense of relief that the first one is out the way," he said.
But what next? His soon-to-be-released debut, Who I Am, features a more adult sound for sure—much more John Mayer than, say, Justin Bieber—and comes off plenty sophisticated too, what with the caliber of the musicians he's playing alongside. So it certainly appears to be an attempt to lure in a wider audience, perhaps one that skews a little older, maybe leaving his old fans at something of a loss.
It made for a weird dichotomy, visually, as Jonas ran through his practiced motions and poses while performing on stage. Here he was, looking to establish himself as something of a legitimate artist along the lines of a young Bruce Springsteen (he's been quoted as saying he's modeled The Administration after The E Street Band), and yet, each movement—a head bob here, a guitar riff there—resulted in giddy gasps and cries from his fans, none of whom had heard this music before. When each song came to its end, it remained unclear: Were these fans screaming because they enjoyed what they were hearing or were they screaming just because that's how they've been programmed to react? When the excitement of hearing these songs in a live setting rubs off, will these girls still be interested in the merits of these songs?
"That's not something I'm afraid of," Jonas said.
That's mostly because he's confident in the music, he explained. More than that, though, he's banking on his fans' loyalty. Earlier in the night, on stage, he joked to his fans that he expected all those at the show with cameras to post videos of his performance on YouTube that night—not so much for posterity as for education. These videos would help future audiences familiarize themselves with his catalog. And whereas this evening's crowd may have been at a loss when it came to singing along to certain lyrics, future ones would have them laid out before them.
"If they can be on board from day one with the sound, that'd be awesome," he said after the show. "It's a little more random this time around, I think. I don't know what to expect going forward."
True to form though, within hours of his set's conclusion on Saturday night, the entirety of Jonas' show was available to be watched online, through various clips. His fans may be growing up—this was far more a teenage audience than a tween one—but their practices remain the same.