NEWARK — The first time we saw Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas sing side-by-side, they were just a pair of wholesome, gawky teens on the Disney Channel.
But eight summers later, Lovato and Jonas — both now 23 and bonafide pop mega-stars — seemed desperate to prove to a nearly sold out Prudential Center that they aren’t kids anymore.
After Jonas finished his opening set Tuesday with the erotic hit “Chains,” the arena blackened and moments later, it was Lovato’s turn, to wail her recent single “Confident” from an elevated platform.
She seductively sang about “getting the chains out,” just after Jonas crooned about being restrained by them — those bubblegum “Camp Rock” days are definitely long gone.
“What’s wrong with being confident?” Lovato asked, as she threw her jacket to the ground and revealed her fierce, black ensemble underneath.
Lovato unleashed vocal gymnastics all night long — she’s actually a pretty incredible singer — and if she was tired by the end, she didn’t show it. Every sky-high wail in the 90-minute set was spot on and goosebump-inducing, as she banged her head in time with rainbow-colored strobe lights.
Famous for light pop hits like 2011’s “Give Your Heart a Break,” Lovato’s newest material exhibits a rock edge. She released her fifth LP “Confident” last year, which features more provocative songs like Tuesday’s finale, “Cool for the Summer,” a bold, bi-curious anthem.
Her new single is ostensibly her most mature, a sensual jam called “Body Say,” released July 1.
“You can touch me with slow hands, speed it up, baby, make me sweat,” she purred as she ran her hands up and down her torso. The crowd’s parents surely squirmed.
To fortify the duo’s camaraderie — their Future Now tour is billed as a co-headlining gig — Lovato was later joined by Jonas on piano, as she belted out the anguished “Stone Cold,” and she sang Tove Lo’s verse in Jonas’s song “Close.”
Earlier in the show, Jonas worked in his own share of crowd-pleasing moves. He methodically shrugged off his patched-up denim jacket as he sang “Let me fix you, baby,” in “The Difference” (apparently, his “baby” is “way too uptight,” a quality that holds her back from fully appreciating his love).
The former Wyckoff resident’s new songs are a vast departure from the material he performed alongside his two older siblings as the Jonas Brothers.
As a solo pop star, he’s taken more to a sultry R&B aesthetic and tried to add to his cred by bringing out other hip-gop giants on this tour. On Tuesday, Jonas backed Fat Joe and Remy Ma as they performed “All The Way Up” and the trio wasn’t as mismatched as one might think.
Later, sensual images on the screen behind him — close-ups of a woman biting her lip and fingers dragging across skin — drove the heartthrob point home. He even managed to make a slow-motion scene of sizzling bacon look more sexy than delicious during his new R&B-influenced jam “Bacon.” The crowd squealed at every backdrop change.
But even if Jonas is all grown up, he recognized that not everyone in his audience is — the profanity in “Jealous” and Jonas’s self-proclaimed most personal song, “Chainsaw,” was self-censored.
“It’s good to be home,” he told the Jersey crowd.
He showed off a formidable range, but it clearly had its limits. At too many points, like the money note during “Jealous,” his voice was strained, and in the a live setting, he could barely hold his own against Lovato’s strong soprano.
THE SET LIST
- PART ONE: Nick Jonas
- “Champagne Problems”
- “Good Thing” (By Sage the Gemini feat. Nick Jonas)
- “The Difference”
- “All The Way Up” (guest performance by Fat Joe and Remy Ma)
- PART TWO: Demi Lovato
- “Heart Attack”
- “Neon Lights”
- “For You”
- “Body Say”
- “Fix a Heart”
- “Stone Cold” (feat. Jonas on piano)
- PART THREE: Nick Jonas
- “So Long”
- “Close” (feat. Lovato)
- PART FOUR: Demi Lovato
- “Give Your Heart a Break”
- “Cool for the Summer”
*This story was originally published on NJ.com.