WORDS + PHOTOS BY ASHLEY EVERS, ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Jon Bellion is no stranger to the city of Chicago, having built his career in the Midwest by playing almost every club in the city during the earlier stages of his career. More recently, Bellion underwent a transformation after taking a slight hiatus and pouring his heart and soul into his recent project entitled Glory Sound Prep. This latest adventure is a combination of Bellion’s desire to shape the music industry into something that stays in the hands of creatives, while still showcasing his own work. The 28 year-old New York-native enjoys collaborating with other creatives, placing a large emphasis on building artist’s careers from the ground up — which ultimately inspired him to mentor the brother-sister duo, Lawrence, and eventually start his own record label in early July. He has been preparing fans for this tour with the release of acoustic sessions and trailers in anticipation of the new sound he has created for himself.
Young adults and teenagers filed into the pit under the stars at Huntington Bank Pavilion in Chicago quickly before Bellion made a powerful entrance. The house lights dimmed and cool toned spotlights shined as Bellion’s silhouette appeared in front of a keyboard. He proudly sported a vintage navy, military style coat and was accompanied by the Beautiful Mind ensemble, including members of Blaque Keyz and his lifelong friend, Travis Mendes.
As a whole, the set consisted of primarily new tracks, with a few older favorites from Bellion’s 2016 release The Human Condition. The entire performance featured a cohesive blend of hip-hop and rap — and big-band sound. The first six songs came from his newest release (which is a bold move for any performing musician).
It was evident that Bellion was enjoying himself through his energetic stage presence and lively facial expressions, but some of the banter between songs seemed commercialized and staged. While Bellion has earned credibility as a well-rounded musician, his attempt to go against the current lacked grit and seemed a bit generic at times.
With this aside, through his production and show as a whole, Bellion wants to capture something more than you can get from listening to his music in your headphones.
It was apparent that Bellion’s main focus is his music, which I pride him for, but the set felt like it was missing some of the heart-racing dance beats, as many of his tracks were slowed down or rearranged sonically to fit his new sound.
Mid-set, Bellion pulled classics such as “All Time Low” and “Overwhelming” out from his back pocket, which were easily some of the best highlights from the show. Fans crouched to the ground and exploded into a collective harmony during the chorus of “All Time Low,” then brought back up with my personal favorite, “Guillotine,” another track revamped with new arrangements and sounds for the live show.
It’s no secret that Bellion adores his fans and his constant interaction and attention to the crowd made it very clear that he wishes to keep creating music solely for his fans — not for the masses. Although his music is quite relatable to the age group represented at this show, there was a slight disconnect between his previous work and what he attempted to showcase as he re-establishes himself on this new journey.
The live version of “Stupid Deep” introduced themes about inclusion and diversity before Bellion paid tribute to one of his favorite bands, Rage Against The Machine, during the heartfelt “Cautionary Tales,” which acts as a third-person narration of Bellion’s growth and hardships as a musician.
Upon returning to the stage for an eagerly awaited encore, Bellion hopped off-stage and placed himself in the middle of the pit to break the humming of the “Seven Nation Army” beat by The White Stripes and transition into a slower version of the usual upbeat crowd-pleaser, “Woke the F*ck Up.”
Before saying goodbye, Bellion announced that an animated series to accompany the present tour is coming soon, along with more strides for his new record label, Beautiful Mind Records, which he alluded to many times throughout the night. Bellion has a lot on his plate, but supporting other artists and their careers seems to be the current focus for Bellion and his team moving forward.
Although he may be a businessman now, Bellion still electrifies the masses with his genre bending beats that leave fans with a slice of his wisdom. Even with a new sound and advanced production, Bellion knows how to stick to his roots by including his fellow musicians to which he refers to as family. He proved that it is possible to empower youth to pursue their ventures while pursuing one’s own. A humid Saturday night at Northerly Island was just a single page in Bellion’s book of tour memories, but his wild spirit left me asking: What is next for Bellion in both his professional and musical pursuits?
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