When an ostensibly featherweight pop star decides to prove his mettle by trying to get in the ring with the big boys, the results are usually not too pretty. Nick Jonas, the youngest of the singing siblings who’ve established themselves as kings of all ‘tween media, proved savvy enough to sidestep that pothole more deftly than performers a decade his senior at the Gotham unveiling of his side project, the Administration.
Sure, the pedigree of the backing band — heavy on alumni of Prince’s New Power Generation — is stellar enough to act as sort of an air bag should Jonas threaten to crash and burn. But here, he seldom threatened to do that, tossing off spry, new wave-styled guitar figures with alacrity and carefully pushing the parameters of his thin-but-agreeable teenaged pipes on songs mostly culled from the imminent “Who I Am” album.
Original material was highlighted by the surprisingly on-the-money psychedelic shamble “Conspiracy Theory” and the breezy funk foray “State of Emergency” — both of which packed considerably more punch than the current single “Rose Garden,” which came off as decidedly wan in comparison.
Naturally, Jonas had to flesh out the program to approach concert length, so rather than revamp tunes from the catalog he and his brothers have built up over the past few years, he hewed to the time-honored tradition of cherry-picking covers both old and new — with results as uneven as might be expected.
He offered up a more-than-credible, just-bubbly-enough take on Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” but a rendition of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” was as callow a performance as one might imagine from a 17-year-old virgin trying to convey world-weary dissipation.
Clearly well versed in the ways of stagecraft — his solo performing career actually pre-dates the Jonas Brothers — Nick came across as perfectly affable, if a bit bland. That may sound like faint praise, but John Mayer has done mighty well with pretty much the same formula, so the kid may very well stay in the picture.
Nick Jonas and the Administration will play L.A.’s Wiltern on Jan. 26.