Fresh off the success of hit single “All Time Low”, the remix of which features British grime sensation Stormzy, New-York-born rapper Jon Bellion has embarked on his first string of U.K. shows, stopping off last night in Birmingham.
The US artist, whose rap influenced electro-pop sound is difficult to pinpoint, has enjoyed continual success since the release of his smash hit debut album, “The Human Condition”, in June 2016.
He pauses after the end of the first song, “He Is The Same”, which is also the first song on his aforementioned album, and grins at the crowd. You can tell that he is incredibly humbled and a little surprised at the fanbase he has accrued across the pond.
Bellion’s opening night in London sold out instantly, and had to be bumped up from a club to much bigger venue, Shepherds Bush Empire. Of the other four dates spanning the UK and Dublin; Glasgow and Manchester are sold out.
I must admit, I had a certain set of preconceptions before heading to the gig, the biggest of which was that his fans were going to be pre-teen girls; excited because Bellion has just finished touring the U.S. with electro indie-pop band Twenty One Pilots.
Doubtless there were Twenty One Pilots fans present; Bellion and Twenty One Pilots frontman Tyler Joseph look and sound so similar that you could swap them out and no one would notice.
However, the crowd was male-dominated and almost entirely made up of people in their late-teens/early-twenties (apart from the line of bored parents grouped at the back, of course). The thing that stood out most about this crowd was not the age range or gender balance, but the dedication to Bellion’s music.
For an artist who only has one full, charting album (although he has released various mixtapes since 2011), this kind of fervour toward his music was like nothing I have seen before.
This dedication even extended to Blaque Keyz, aka New Jersey rapper Hakim Hardy, the support act on this tour and frequent collaborator with Bellion. It would be nice to assume that the audience knows Blaque Keyz as a stand-alone artist, but the interaction shown during his support set suggests it is more likely that fans have found him through Bellion.
Both Blaque Keyz and Travis Mendes join Bellion on stage, Mendes is there throughout the set, to deliver a high-octane performance.
The only real standout song is the encore, “Jim Morrison”, a track from one of Bellion’s early mixtapes. That is not to say that the set was bland, in fact much the opposite; the crowd gave second song in, the double-Platinum certified hit single “All Time Low” the same amount of love and interaction as “80s Films” and “Weight of the World”, two of the slower songs from the album.
At multiple points throughout the show, the sound of the crowd singing along comes across more clearly than Bellion’s mic.
Bellion challenges the aggressive stigma often associated with rap music. The dancing incorporated into his show at first seems erratic, but as it progressed, it was clear to see that Bellion and Mendes had carefully choreographed these moves. The show as a whole, was in perfect harmony and got a great response from the close-to-sold out crowd right until the end of the set.
Perhaps Bellion is so popular because his lyrics resonate with the youth of the twenty-first century, perhaps because he is an incredible showman, or perhaps because he has just come off tour with a band who have one of the most dedicated fan-bases in the business.
Regardless, I have never been to a show where the crowd have screamed along so passionately to every single song on the set list, at many points actually drowning out the mic.
I left with goose-bumps, already enthused about seeing him again; and the prospects of great things yet to come from this exciting young artist.
Words: Maddie Flower
Photos: Simon Redley