Jon Bellion is one of those special artists who has not yet had his talents fully recognized. Fortunately for myself, this allowed me to see Jon perform at the intimate Ogden Theatre. Knowing that his next show in Colorado will probably be at Red Rocks or the 1st Bank Center, there was no hesitation in purchasing these tickets.
November 9th 2016 was an emotional day in the United States of America, to say the least. Tensions were high. Emotions manifested. Feelings of anger, happiness, distress, fear, doubt, pride, disappointment and disbelief clashed throughout our nation. Though, for two hours, 1,600 of us were able to come together at the Ogden Theatre, put whatever difference we may have had aside, and enjoy the unbelievably inspiring music of Jon Bellion.
Upon walking into the venue I felt a humbling sense of humanity that I had seen a lack of in the last twenty-four hours. The two openers for the show were singer/songwriter Travis Mendes and rapper Blaque Keys, both frequent collaborators with Jon Bellion. The two artists got the crowd ready and set the tone for the genre-bending music, of hip-hop, singer/songwriter, pop, R&B, electronic, and alternative, that is Jon Bellion.
Travis played a relatively short, yet powerful set, setting the tone for what was to come. Travis was a prominent figure during Jon’s set, serving as a hype-man and providing background vocals for the entire set. The two even performed their collaborative song “Guillotine” off of Jon’s recent album The Human Condition.
Blaque Keys took the stage next, and brought much more energy to the stage, getting the crowd hyped up. Blaque Keys displayed strong confidence as he demonstrated his rapping abilities to the crowd. He then spit an impressive freestyle, which pumped up the crowd even more. This Ogden crowd truly showed love to Blaque Keyz, which he returned with his music and his vocal appreciation of the crowd. He announced that he will be dropping a new album next month, and even gave his actual phone number out to the crowd! I can’t say I’ve ever seen an artist do this, no matter their popularity. He then gave a shout-out to Travis Mendes, following crowd cheers, and then a shout-out to Jon Bellion, followed by the crowd losing their minds. Blaque Keyz later returned during Jon’s set to perform their collaborative song “Weight Of The World”.
“We want Jon! We want Jon!” the crowd chanted over and over again. I could feel the suspense in the room, knowing he was about to come out at any minute. The lights went down and the crowd went wild. The band members walked out and took their positions while I tried to recognize which one was Jon. We then heard the sound of beeping, similar to a heart monitor, signaling the intro to “He Is The Same”, the intro track on The Human Condition. The crowd screamed in excitement, though Jon was yet to be seen.
“Still livin’ in his dad’s house”, Jon belts the opening lyrics as he walks on to the stage. The crowd, which I thought had reached max volume, then exceeded my expectations. At this point, I realized the appreciation for Jon as an artist, and I saw how many lives he had truly affected. I knew I was a huge Jon Bellion fan, but I couldn’t believe the reaction from this crowd. It appeared that Jon couldn’t believe it either. In a humbling manner, he looked left, right, up, and down, shaking his head in disbelief and gratitude at the reaction from the crowd at this sold out the show.
Songs from his most recent album, The Human Condition, dominated the setlist. He truly brought The Human Condition to life, and following “He Is The Same” he worked through the album, playing songs, “All Time Low”, “Guillotine”, “80’s Films”, “Overwhelming”, “Maybe IDK”, “Weight Of The World”, “New York Soul – Pt. ii” and “Hand Of God”. He even played the two songs, “Run Wild” and “Luxury” from his first album, The Definition. As I mentioned, Jon is a master at blending all sorts of genres into one beautiful masterpiece. You can here this by listening to his albums, though seeing him perform live truly illustrated his ability to do so. I wasn’t too sure what to expect from a Jon Bellion show, though I was overwhelmingly pleased to see him experiment with his own songs and alter from the original versions while he’s on stage. Seeing him mesh different styles of music and express his creativity through the altering of his delivery made me realize why Twenty One Pilots asked him to open for them in the second half of their tour, as they are kings of this themselves. Jon even mentioned to the crowd, “the label told me that this type of music wouldn’t work”, recognizing the unique and untraditional style of his music. He then thanked the crowd for allowing him to make music that he truly loves.
I was amazed by Jon’s ability to keep the crowd alive and hyped up, while also being able to bring out people’s emotions. Before this song, Jon asked the crowd to look at the person to their right and their left and give them a high five and then urged us to love one another. Jon had been bouncing all over the stage throughout the night, though when he played “Maybe IDK” he stood in the center of the stage, with a spotlight on him and remained behind the mic for the entirety of the emotionally charged song.
“I wonder why I feel emptiness and I sing these blues
I wonder why I feel hopelessness when I watch the news
I wonder why I can’t find my voice in my dreams
I wonder why they say hate your brother and hide your gold
I wonder why we all fear the things that we might not know
I wonder why I can’t find my voice in my dreams”
In a time of uncertainty and transition in our nation, and amidst individuals’ personal struggles, these lyrics touched this sold out crowd, as nearly everyone belted the lyrics, many hands were raised, and several eyes were closed. Personally, this was an incredibly necessary experience and a warming faith in humanity.
Transitioning from this heartfelt song, he worked through some slower songs before performing his rap-dominated track, “New York Soul – Pt. ii”. The song starts slowly before the impossible to not bob your head to hip-hop beat drops. The crowd was going absolutely nuts at this point and trying to keep up with Jon’s lyrics. The first two verses consist of fun wordplay, puns, and an abundant amount of sports and pop culture references. Though before the last verse, the beat slows down, and his lyrics become very real, as he raps
“Let me give the kids just a little help
Tell ‘em money is not the key to wealth
Cause if it can stop the pain,
How the fuck do you explain
The bunch of millionaires that killed themselves?”
He then stated that they had one more song left to play. He asked us one more time to high-five a different person to our left and to our right. He reminded us to love one another, once again, before going in to “Hand of God”, the outro of The Human Condition. This song may have been the most emotional part of the entire night. I felt and witnessed the same crowd emotions as “Maybe IDK”, but enhanced. Jon Bellion created a comfortable space in The Ogden on this night as he encouraged us to love and interact with out neighbors. Everyone felt comfortable with himself or herself and there was no judgment in that entire room. The crowd sang,
“Tears at a funeral, tears at a funeral, I might break
Angry at all the things, angry at all the things I can’t change
When you’re lost in the universe, lost in the universe, don’t lose faith,
My mother says, “Your whole life’s in the hand of God”
The community and shared emotions that I felt on this night were something that I have experienced at no other concert. As the song came to an end, key lyrics from each of his other songs overlapped over one another. The music came to an end, Jon thanked the crowd and the band left the stage.
“One more song!” the crowd cheered in unison. The band returned and performed the song “Jim Morrison”, a song that came out on The Separation mixtape, before either of his albums. I usually experience a sense of sadness as an incredible show comes to an end but I didn’t feel that this time, considering this show shattered my expectations. Jon thanked the crowd, thanked his band, encouraged us to love, and walked off the stage. I walked out of the venue, feeling refreshed and more inspired than I did when I walked in, and I thank Jon Bellion and his band for spreading this much-needed love on us.