As a full-time student, missing school isn’t always ideal. Actually, it’s probably one of the least ideal scenarios that a college kid has to face– but naturally, when lead singer of Black Veil Brides, Andy Biersack announced that the second and final leg of his Andy Black solo project, Homecoming Tour: Curtain Call was about to begin in early February 2017, I knew I had to get in on it.

Originally being from the suburbs of Chicago, I was used to having concert venues easily accessible to me, so when I scrolled through the list of Andy Black tour dates and saw “Palatine, IL” listed, I was ecstatic. The only problem? I wasn’t in Illinois for school. It was like an uncanny Wizard of Oz type epiphany– “Oh no, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Illinois anymore.” Trust me, it was a much more devastating realization from in my shoes.

As a long-time fan of Biersack, whose music I’d been listening to since Black Veil Brides’ “Sex and Hollywood” days in 2009, I was determined to find a way back to my hometown for the concert.

Needless to say, after working out a few kinks, purchasing a one-way train ticket back to Lincoln, NE, where I was going to school and phoning a couple friends back home, I had convinced them to make the 8 hour journey from Chicago to Lincoln so I could hitch a ride back with just enough time for the Andy Black concert on February 21.

By the time I’d gotten home, I’d already missed a few days of school, but once I’d arrived at the concert venue, Durty Nellie’s in Palatine, IL, there was no doubt in my mind that the trip was going to be worth it.

The night kicked off with a stellar performance by one of the two artists accompanying Biersack on tour, Palaye Royale. Palaye Royale was a punk-rock band formed in 2008 that I’d never listened to more than once before arriving at the concert, but needless to say, by the end of their set, I was hooked.

Featuring a sound that was somewhat reminiscent of early Panic! At The Disco framed with heavy My Chemical Romance-esque accents, Palaye Royale played a set consisting of one of their most popular songs, “Mr. Doctor Man,” as well as a cover of MCR’s “Teenagers,” which did the song more justice than I could’ve hoped for from a band I barely knew.

While I hadn’t anticipated such a lively stage presence or head-bobbing array of rock anthems to be cranked out by Palaye Royale, there was no question that by the end of their set, they’d managed to put out. As lead singer, Remington Leith had put it when he’d found out how many of the audience members had never listened to Palaye Royale before, “I’m glad to be stealing your virginities tonight,” and I had to admit, I was too.

After Palaye Royale, the second accompanying artist, William Control had taken the stage, and to be honest, although Control’s music, which was a fairly even split between electronic and punk rock, wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, it did its job of riling up the crowd and providing a solid dose of angsty, nostalgic lyrics that even had me pumped up for the artist’s closing songs.

Last to perform was none other than Biersack himself, which no doubt had the entirety of the crowd screaming with both excitement and anticipation. Performing with Biersack was his guitarist Pat Dimitri, affectionately referred to as “Patricia” throughout the show, as well as his drummer Beaux Evans.

Kicking off the concert with “Stay Alive,” Biersack’s stage presence brought the crowd together in a closely knit, inclusive atmosphere from the second he stepped out from behind the curtain.

As the concert began to pick up speed, the singer’s blaring powerhouse vocals enveloped the room in a tizzy of musical euphoria, allowing for perfect sing-along moments laced with series of call and response queues where Biersack would hold the microphone out to the crowd and allow the audience to sing pieces of the chorus along with him.

After “Stay Alive,” was yet another crowd favorite, “Ribcage,” which especially lent itself to the blinking strobe lights and reverberating drum beats that quite literally vibrated through my bones as I stood near the middle of the crowd, which was packed like a loose can of sardines into a tiny room at the restaurant/pub the concert was hosted at.

After the first few songs, Biersack paused during a short transition period to connect with the crowd and apologize for the quality of his voice, which for the record, was completely unnecessary. Although the singer took a moment to comedically describe his vocals as sounding like that of an “old crying trucker,” I can assure you that if that was the case, he sounded like the most angelic crying trucker I’d ever heard.

While Biersack had also made sure to post a quick video PSA on his Instagram earlier that day about him being sick with laryngitis, in person, the quality of his vocals were just as hard-hitting and impactful as ever, with just a little extra rasp thrown in due to his illness. At one point, Biersack had even poked a bit of fun at himself, saying “I am perpetually sick because I haven’t had a vegetable in my body since Gerber.”

What really made this concert stand out for me, especially in comparison to seeing Biersack perform live with Black Veil Brides, was the level of inclusivity that he incorporated into the show.

While most artists, especially those who have already achieved a large amount of popularity amongst the masses don’t often directly interact with fans for more than a few seconds at a time, Biersack allowed for a generous amount of crowd connectivity between songs, including at one point, inviting an audience member by the name of Sarah onto the stage to sing “Saviour” with him.

As a fan of Biersack and an audience member myself, being able to watch the artist actually interact and speak with those who had come out to see his performance made all the difference, especially due to how personal and genuine those interactions were.

After “Ribcage” was over, Biersack did a cover of Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” which was the only cover of the entire Andy Black set. The song somehow managed to preserve a similar classic-rock feel to his band’s earlier cover of “Rebel Yell” which was featured in their Rebels EP released in 2011. Biersack’s deep baritone voice lent itself perfectly to the Idol song and had all audience members, parents and older folks included, jamming out to the punk-rocky rendition of the feel-good classic song.

Following “Dancing With Myself,” was “Paint It Black,” which despite being one of my least favorite songs of The Shadow Side album, ended up being one of, if not my favorite to see performed live. The way that the blue and white strobe lights danced around Biersack’s silhouette in the darkened room during the song’s intro built up the hype for the slower song and without a doubt added to the dark, mysterious vibe enveloping the Andy Black set.

“Drown Me Out,” as well as “Put the Gun Down” and “They Don’t Need to Understand” were the last three songs of the concert, all of which sounded just as reverently classic and defiantly modern as they did on The Shadow Side album. The variety of songs that Biersack had chosen to include in the set were the perfect mix, to say the least. While “Put the Gun Down,” was artfully layered with bouts of flowing orchestral interludes playing in the background of the song, “Drown Me Out,” served as the perfect adrenaline-boosting, heavy rock supplement to uplift the crowd right before the intro of “They Don’t Have To Understand” began blaring through the speakers.

In the end, the show had not only lived up to expectations but grown far beyond them. Biersack’s stage presence was both sincere and entertaining, pumping up the audience for each song between interludes while still preserving a personal connection with the crowd. Each ready-made rock n’ roll anthem embodied everything that it means to be young, rebellious, an outsider and the champion of oneself with unapologetic urgency. Biersack is truly a living, breathing tale of ambition and perseverance that is not only inspiring to witness, but serves a prime example of what it means to never give in.