by MIKE CHAIKEN
You have to hand it to the Jonas Brothers.
When I last photographed the siblings, it was 2007. The group’s first full-length album, the self-titled “Jonas Brothers,” had just been released and they were on their first headlining tour.
Inside the Oakdale Theater, there were thousands of teen and tween girls screaming and shouting for the group and the individual brothers, Nick, Joe, and Kevin. It was essentially pandemonium for a band that just the previous year I saw as an overlooked opener for a now forgotten headliner.
Jump ahead to 2019.
I was shooting the group at the Mohegan Sun Arena as they toured behind their newest album, “Happiness Begins,” which marks a reunion of the brothers after they explored individual musical paths in the nearly 10 years since their last studio effort, 2009’s “Lines, Vines and Trying Times.”
Sometimes when bands who have marked their initial success as teen heartthrobs regroup after a considerable hiatus, it’s nostalgia-time. There may be a new album at hand, but the audience is typically filled with their original fans, who are no longer teens and tweens but 20, 30, or 40-somethings.
The brothers’ latest effort “Happiness Begins,” with its hits “Cool” and “Sucker,” is undeniably the best thing the three has done.
But, heading to the show in Uncasville, I really thought the audience would be the same teens and tweens I saw at Oakdale in 2007, albeit 12 years older.
Instead, when I arrived at the casino, I saw an audiences filled with teens and tweens once again.
That’s hard to do for any band.
Somehow or another, however, the Jonas Brothers have successfully remained relevant to the newest generation of pop audiences.
Now, mind you, the Jonas Brothers as a band may have been on ice, but the members haven’t been idle.
Nick has successfully transformed into a modern R&B singer full of passion and emotions, as evidenced by tracks such as “Jealous” (which the group performed on Aug. 21). He’s not a teen heartthrob. He’s a full grown sexy star, married to a former Miss World.
Joe Jonas brought a lot of smiles to music fans with his side project DNCE, which gave the word the earworm “Cake on the Beach.”
Both Nick’s and Joe’s efforts kept the Jonas’s in the pop public’s eye. (Kevin was content making money with his own business ventures.)
But the audience members at the Mohegan clearly had been doing their research on the Jonases. No matter which year the band tapped in its set list, the audience cheered, danced and sang along. Some of the songs were older than the audience members. But, to quote an old blues song, “The little girls understand.”
Although no one in the audience would probably know what I am talking about, I liken the Jonas’s current renaissance to what the Bee Gees, another group of brothers, pulled off in the mid-1970s.
That group led by the brothers Gibb emerged in the 1960s as teen heartthrobs with aching singles such as “I Started a Joke.” But as the 1960s ended, the Bee Gees audiences grew up and were no longer interested in teen heartthrobs. The brothers and tried to find their creative sea legs separate from each other.
Eventually, the brothers regrouped. And in doing so, they also reinvented themselves, becoming the kings of R&B and disco. All of a sudden auditoriums were filled with teens and tweens, who weren’t even born yet when the Bee Gees initially emerged.
Enough history. How as the show?
No matter how you felt about the earlier Jonas Brothers’ music, “Happiness Begins” is pop genius. It taps into R&B and earworms that compel you to dance and sing along. Try to listen to “Sucker” or “Cool” and keep your mouth shut.
The band also was in top notch form live at the Mohegan. First of all, fortunately for the audience, the brothers know how to put on a show and they are not afraid of their good looks. They weren’t trying to prove themselves on stage, showing off they are “great artists.” They wanted, and they wanted their audience, to have fun.
And they provided the fun with sharp performances, great singing, and confetti, fireworks, and drone powered balloons.
Leading into the Jonas Brothers’ set singer Bebe Rexha provided a vocally propulsive set filled with some great diva-worthy tracks such as her hit “I’m A Mess.” As a performer, she gave every indication that given a chance she can follow in the footsteps of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Good stuff.
Setting the stage for the evening was singer Jordan McGraw. His soulful singing and dance rhythms were a good fit for the evening as they work the same side of the pop streets as the brothers’ “Happiness Begins.”
I give the Jonas Brothers at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Aug. 21 three out of four stars.