Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato took a risk in going relatively straightforward and simple for the Brooklyn stop of their 42-show Future Now tour: no knife-sharp choreography, no flocks of strapping dancers, no impractical props cluttering the stage and only one wardrobe change for Lovato.
Instead, their voices were front and center on the Barclays Center stage before a nearly full house of tweens, teens, parents and twentysomethings alike, with Jonas taking the audience through most of his No. 2 charting album Last Year Was Complicated and hits from his self-titled debut, while Lovato highlighted dance-pop tracks, ballads and fan-favorites alike.
Opener Mike Posner kicked off the show with “Buried in Detroit,” a nod to the singer’s hometown that’s in the vein of the original version of “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.” In the most honest moment of the night, a visibly moved Posner carved a monologue on the tumultuous last few years of his life into mega hit “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” from flying in private jets with Justin Bieber to losing everything he gained from the success of “Cooler Than Me” and living out of a car.
“You cannot use green to cover up blue!” he repeated throughout, moving the audience towards the grand realization that no, money can’t fix everything. Posner questioned his unusually serious closing moment and the tone it set for the rest of the show, but for a concert that stayed on script throughout, it was refreshing and as raw as you can get in such a glossy setting.
The set-up for Jonas was too on-the-nose at times; how many silhouettes of half-dressed, nameless women need to be projected on the screen as he performs suggestive song after suggestive song? But his voice filled Barclays and, despite its softness, floated above the powerful sound of his live band, which put a new spin on tracks like “Numb” and “Levels.”
Jonas assembled a quality selection of tracks spanning his two-year-long solo career from “Jealous” to “Chainsaw” and a number of B-sides in between, with his falsetto never faltering. As Jonas was bathed in teal blue light during “The Difference,” it seemed more like an intimate club gig than an arena show in that moment, a feeling that was hard to maintain as a video of dripping bacon sizzling in slow-motion played behind him.
The minimal arrangement of Lovato’s set — as far as pop diva sets go — paid off in spades (though she was beleaguered by corny imagery, also), with Lovato in her best vocal form. She sounded better in the arena than she did on the studio version of “Stone Cold.” Lovato, who’s beloved by her Lovatics, engaged the crowd through little chats, (“You’re beautiful!” she said to the crowd during “Neon Lights,” putting a tiny spin on the original lyric) and performances of lesser-known ballads like “Nightingale,” which she devoted to her fans.
Guest appearances from Jamie Foxx and Desiigner broke the monotony that can sometimes befall a 42 show tour with a rigid set list. Brooklyn native Desiigner ran out on the stage in the home of the Brooklyn Nets in a Chicago Bulls jersey and matching shorts. (We’ll forgive him since it was Jordan’s.) Desiigner dabbed and jumped around to his hit “Panda,” as portions of the crowd shouted along and confusion befell the parents who only listen to Fleetwood Mac.
Later on in the show, Foxx and Lovato teamed up for a beautiful medley of classics, from “Georgia on My Mind” to “Empire State of Mind,” as Foxx played the piano. Foxx and Jonas then teamed up for a crowd-pumping performance of “Blame It.” If anything, Foxx’s stunning voice and talent were underutilized. He could have easily performed a slow song with Jonas, which would have allowed them both to shine, or rapped on “Bacon.” Instead, a backing track of Ty Dolla $ign‘s filled the arena as Jonas ambled and swayed on the extended stage.
As for Jonas and Lovato, their key collaboration came in the form of “Close,” with Lovato taking on Tove Lo‘s lines. Lovato struggled at times to get her voice to match Lo’s softer, huskier tone, but she soared once the chorus hit.
Though possessive fans of either Jonas or Lovato may have been disappointed, another collaboration could have turned this into a true Jonas and Lovato tour. So, a plea to organizers: Please have Lovato and Jonas perform with each other, so they may bounce off each other’s energy rather than simply coexisting in the same arena.