Jon Bellion and supporting acts Travis Mendes and B.Keyz wrapped up the Australian leg of their Glory Sound Prep Tour last Friday night at Sydney’s iconic Enmore Theatre.
Jon Bellion has always had a special place in my heart. His 2014 mixtape, The Definition, shaped my final year of high school, and his debut studio album, The Human Condition, was the soundtrack to my move overseas to start university in 2016. Witnessing his growth and evolution over the years has been remarkable. Time and time again Bellion proved himself to be an artist that had no interest in fitting neatly into a box someone else had laid out before him. He’d created his own space within which his art exists, outside the confines of genre boundaries or commercial trends.
His latest record, Glory Sound Prep, is no different. His vocals seamlessly transition between singing and rapping, delivering powerful lyrics boasting newfound maturity without surrendering any of his classic style or authenticity. Weaving together sophisticated production and a clear narrative, GSP makes for an immersive listening experience. When performed live, however, this record transforms, expanding beyond the solitary journey that comes with listening to it alone and exploding into a collective experience characterised by audience interaction and undeniably brilliant musicality.
Before he even enters the stage, the opening notes to JT spill into the crowded theatre, crashing into widespread cheers and applause. As the backing vocals continue, the audience starts singing along. When Bellion finally gets behind the mic, the energy in the room is electric. His first notes are incredible, and he carries the rest of the song with confidence and ease. Before the next track, Bellion thanks the crowd for coming and expresses his gratitude to his fanbase.
Mendes, one of Bellion’s opening acts, provides backup vocals beautifully as the headliner works his way through GSP. Both performers work the crowd expertly, encouraging the audience to sing along. I’ve completely lost count of how many times the floor shook beneath my feet throughout the concert. The last number I remember is four. Bellion’s stage presence is energetic and engaging. He alternates between two mic stands, one at the front of the stage and one just behind it, adjacent to the drum set he plays in between his verses. As a performer, he throws himself into his full musicality not only as a singer-songwriter, but also as a producer and an instrumentalist. Bellion’s chemistry with his band further establishes his technical prowess beyond being the voice behind his own lyrics.
Towards the end of his set, Bellion shares his childhood memories of noticing how his favourite performers, the Dave Matthews Band, managed to make each of their sets, and sometimes even their songs, sound different at every show he saw them play. Inspired, Bellion then announces that he would do just that with his next song. Upon announcing that it would be his fan-favourite, Guillotine, the audience exploded into excitement. Bellion then gets the crowd to provide backing vocals before he launches into a brand new rendition of his 2016 single. It is met with thunderous applause.
Later in the show, Bellion invites his audience to help him create a space that is inclusive and accepting of everyone, regardless of differences in nationality, creed, or skin colour. He stresses the importance of being compassionate, and shares his journey behind his GSP single Stupid Deep. Accompanied again by his audience, Bellion begins his ballad. The entire theatre is flooded with light as hundreds of people turn the flashlights on their phones on to wave above their heads. The gesture brings him close to tears.
Before closing, Bellion flexes his technical muscles again by freestyling with his band. The way everyone riffs off of each other is impressive. The entire night has been a constant reminder that Bellion is an incredible musical talent; an artist that defies genres and wears many hats in the creation of his work. After a couple more songs, Bellion bids his audience farewell. Upon an overwhelming and widespread chanting of “encore” from the audience, Bellion and his band return to the stage for a few more fan favourites.
Once the performance is officially over, there is a collective air of euphoria and satisfaction. It truly was an incredible show. And as we all spilled out of the theatre and back into our everyday lives, it wasn’t lost on me that I had just witnessed something special. I left Newtown that night with my soul full and my heart warm, still beating softly around the place I had given this music when I was seventeen.