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Live review: Nick Jonas at the Wiltern

January 27, 2010 |  1:37 pm

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"New year, new beginnings," pledged Nick Jonas on Tuesday night at the Wiltern. While that observation came amid a mushy monologue about the importance of overcoming your obstacles -- Nick knows in his heart that you can do it -- the pronouncement wasn't just a pop star platitude. Tuesday's show was the first of four the youngest Jonas brother is scheduled to play here this week (with his backing band, the Administration) in support of his solo debut, "Who I Am," due out Tuesday.

In addition, Jonas said, the concert also marked his first time performing at the historic Koreatown venue, an occasion the 17-year-old New Jersey native chose to honor with his debut of a sort of aging-bluesman patois he used to deliver stage-banter boilerplate you might expect to hear from someone three or four times his age.

"Let's take this thing back a minute," he suggested at one point; later, he asked, "Whatcha say we kick this thing up a notch?"

The put-on, of course, is the pop star's prerogative -- more often than not, it's what connects the music to the masses. And the Jonas Brothers are better adopters than most: Their records are packed with dazzling re-creations of genres they've come to understand through observation rather than through experience. (How stultifying to limit oneself exclusively to the style one was born into.) 

So you'll find no problem here with Jonas' decision to spend "Who I Am," on which he trades his main group's up-tempo tween pop for a mellow brand of white-dude blues-rock, essaying a new form.

Like "Who I Am," Jonas' 90-minute Wiltern set contained plenty of handsome melodies and crafty arrangements, and the singer's band -- made up of old-hand session pros who've played with Prince, among many others -- did fine instrumental work, supporting Jonas with effortless, flash-free muscle. Yet flash is precisely the quality that separates Jonas from a zillion other 17-year-olds with voices and guitars and the willingness to sacrifice a regular adolescence for a crack at showbiz success. 

On Tuesday he withheld the excitement of a Jonas Brothers gig but offered only proficiency in its place. With a handful of exceptions, that is, each of which served to underscore the underwhelming nature of Jonas' solo project. 

The first was an acoustic cover of "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon that perfectly captured the kind of old-soul maturity Jonas is presumably after in his new songs. Another was a tune Jonas said he'd written "a couple of nights ago" called "Stay." Less rock-oriented and more R&B-based than the material on "Who I Am," it built slowly from a skeletal piano figure into a full-blown slow jam the neo-soul star Maxwell might admire, with Jonas dropping to one knee while flexing an impressive falsetto he's probably honed over years of back-of-the-tour-bus practice.

In a night of too-cool competence, it provided a flicker of heat.

--Mikael Wood

Photo: Nick Jonas at the Critics Choice Awards. Credit: Associated Press

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