Demi Lovato & Nick Jonas Kick Off VMAs Weekend at Hollywood's Avalon: Live Review

Demi Lovato & Nick Jonas
Review
4.5
Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images

"Who’s ready for the f---ing VMAs this weekend?” Demi Lovato shouted into the crowd last night at Hollywood’s Avalon, her voice met with a roar of cheers. The pop star’s 45-minute headlining set, presented by Time Warner Cable and Lifebeat as part of their pre-VMA festivities, was heralded by a teaser set from Nick Jonas. For both performers, who are former tourmates and close friends, the performance was meant as a warm-up for Sunday night’s awards show, during which Jonas will perform.

Nick Jonas Shares Thoughts on Miley Cyrus Hosting the VMAs at Billboard's Men of Style Party

For Lovato, a club show at the Avalon (where she notably shot her music video for “Here We Go Again”) offered an opportunity to test out material off her upcoming new album Confident, which will arrive on Oct. 16. “There’s songs on my album that are more soulful,” the singer told the audience. “I feel like this is the first time I’ve been able to showcase my voice on an album.” Much of the new material, she noted, was inspired by classic singers like Aretha Franklin, whom Lovato honored last evening with a no-holds-barred cover of “Ain’t No Way.”

The singer stuck with her hits for much of the set, including “Heart Attack,” “Skyscraper” and “Really Don’t Care,” offering a boisterous, energized performance that showcased her skill for live vocals. Clad in shiny black shorts and a white crop top, Lovato bounded around the Avalon’s stage, which was set with a brilliantly lit cage of fluorescent light tubes. Her second choice of cover, Frozen’s “Let It Go,” was a strange juxtaposition to her newfound grown-up pop aesthetic, even as it paid homage to the singer’s Disney roots. The real moment of truth came at the end of the set as Lovato unveiled her new single “Cool for the Summer,” noting her excitement that “every time I get in my car I hear it on the radio.” 

Jonas, who watched Lovato’s set sidestage as fans shouted and waved for his attention, opened the evening with a 30-minute performance of tracks from his recent solo album, as well as a few abridged covers. He strutted onstage in sunglasses and a white leather jacket, both of which he eventually tossed aside, rolling up his T-shirt sleeves to reveal biceps he continually flexed throughout the performance. The singer opened with “Chains” and offered up “Numb” before swaggering through his latest single “Levels.” “You’re actually the first audience I’ve played that song for,” Jonas noted, “so you should feel very special.”

His choice of covers veered from The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” to Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison,” held together by a retro soul vibe infused throughout. Between songs, as Jonas’ band raised the level of funk, he shouted encouragements like “Pick it up, pick it up” as he danced around the stage. “Now listen,” he told the crowd at one point. “I see a few of you have drinks in your hands and seem to be having a good time. So if you want to move and act like you’re at a concert, by all means.” Jonas concluded his quickie set with “Jealous,” his sleeves fully rolled to showcase his arms by this point. “I’m looking forward to this weekend,” he said. “Thanks for starting this weekend perfectly with all of us.” 

Jonas is nominated for best male video for “Chains” at the MTV Video Music Awards and will perform “Levels” during the show.