Jon Bellion fulfilled a promise to Arizona on Sunday, returning to make up a canceled radio show and kicking off a new year on a thrilling note.
Eschewing a large production in favor of a stripped down acoustic set at Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom, Bellion was visibly excited to play such an intimate show. The room was packed to the tops of the bleachers with diehard fans who were ready to nearly drown out Bellion’s vocals all night with the level of their enthusiasm. He was joined by Arizona native Upsahl, who opened the night with a brief acoustic set that had the front of the room singing and clapping along.
Bellion was onstage early, but the cheers as he bounded out continued long enough that he and his band were beaming and laughing in disbelief. He then cheekily informed his audience that he hadn’t planned a setlist for the evening- instead choosing to take requests from the crowd sprinkled in with the hits. The result was an incredibly special affair and a real connection between Bellion and his fans.
Requests were immediately shouted at the stage as Bellion surveyed the room and the chosen songs were always winners. “Conversations with My Wife” is always a fan favorite and the acoustic version was soulful and fun. Bellion filled in any instrumental gaps with stellar beatboxing, while his accompanying guitarist and percussionist played the improvised setlist perfectly all night. Naturally, Bellion showed off his killer flow on “Adult Swim” before the roof-raising “Guillotine”.
The audience was fully committed to joining in, adding the weight of their voices to singing along with Bellion and providing all the sound effects to each song. Midway through, Bellion teased new music with one caveat- no one in the room was allowed to record the track and post it online. Phones immediately fell away with the promise that he’d release “Holy” the following week before teaching everyone the chorus so they could join in. Like everything he’s released, “Holy” was both profound and lighthearted- a tribute to higher love.
The evening was a sea of upturned faces enraptured by Bellion’s genius, humor and humble disposition. He joked with fans in the front row, signed a dollar bill and a pair of shoes and thanked everyone under the sun for allowing him to return to make up for the canceled gig. Despite his aversion to radio shows, he expressed sincere gratitude to LIVE 101.5 for playing his music back in the early days of his career. After that, time seemed to fly through “Stupid Deep” and “Blu” before returning for a stunning encore of “Woke the F*ck Up” to end a beautifully intimate night.
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel