Anticipation permeated the air last night at Wolstein Center. The second that a massive sheet dropped in front of the stage to hide set up for Twenty One Pilots, the crowd went insane. Every second that went by was spent wondering what songs they would play, what tricks they would pull and when it would all go down.
But when the clock struck 9:45 p.m., people in the sold out crowd went from excitedly chattering to frantically screaming. They knew what was coming. Because at 9:46 p.m. the sheet dropped and the two Ohioans appeared on stage, masked in their finest ski masks to date. You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
Hailing from Columbus, Twenty One Pilots is a simple duo. Vocalist, guitarist, acrobat and scaffolder Tyler Joseph commands the crowd while Josh Dunn, drummer extraordinaire, comic and mystery man, counters and compliments Joseph’s moves. Together, the duo is Twenty One Pilots, an alternative band that puts out stylistically distinct music.
From the very beginning, you knew the night would be one to remember. The show opened with the pair singing a remixed intro to “Car Radio” which then seamlessly moved into “Heavydirtysoul.” It was, of course, brilliant because with a talented drummer laying the groundworks, it became easy for a stand-out multi-talented vocalist like Joseph to slay the game. Singing through a ski mask sounds and looks hard, but Joseph does it so easily. He not only sings through a ski mask, but he also raps, screams, serenades, plays the piano, dances and makes the ukulele sound punk all within the span of a three-minute song.
From here, the night only escalated with every second that went by because although they are musicians, they are above all else performers.
As if hearing great live music wasn’t good enough, the theatrics alone were cause enough to attend the show. Between the anticipation of wondering when Dunn would play his drum kit on top of the crowd to pondering where Joseph would scaffold, there was no shortage of surprises last night. The first main surprise came only three songs in; all of a sudden, Joseph was supposedly playing the piano when a cloak was thrown over him. Ten seconds later, he was to the right of the stage, standing in the crowd, belting the remainder of the song. He went from the stage to the crowd in a blink of an eye. The second standout surprise was when Joseph climbed into a plastic hamster ball and rolled it on top of the crowd.
The duration of their hour-long set followed similarly. They would perform songs, both old and new, while delivering them in the most theatrical, entertaining way possible. With trippy video montages playing on a screen behind them, backflips off of the piano and new takes on some of their older songs, there was never a dull moment.
And just when you thought another Twenty One Pilots song was coming, they took a little break halfway through their set to toss some covers at us. The opening bands joined Twenty One Pilots on stage to perform covers of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” The Top Notes’ “Twist and Shout” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” These covers were performed so tastefully and with so much respect to the original artist that it was hard to believe the same guys were rapping and belting out some of alternative music’s best stuff just seconds earlier.
But then we were back to Twenty One Pilots. Each song throughout the set had its own cool thing about it, but one of the peaks was definitely “Car Radio.” The last official song of the set before the encore, “Car Radio” is the duo’s first real hit. They perform it at all of their shows and is without a doubt one of the songs that they go all out for. The minute Joesph slammed his fingers on the piano to hit those infamous chords, the crowd went wild. Everyone belted out the lyrics and moved around in a frenzy.
As the song picked up pace, the crowd jumped and moshed and stared up at Joseph and Dunn as if they were godly creatures. But just when they had the crowd captivated, the lights went out, signaling that Joseph was on the move. To finish the climactic song, Joseph rushed from the stage to the opposite side of the arena. He climbed up a structure, the spotlight on him the entire time. And when he turned around to face the back of the arena, everyone erupted in hysteria. The crowd was screaming as Joseph stared at them; he turned back around and belted out the last 30 seconds of “Car Radio.” The entire time, he was perched on this pedestal, he was being watched with such unwavering adoration like a member of the Beatles.
Joseph can rap, scream, croon, serenade and bust out that piano and ukulele while Dunn can slam his drum sticks like there’s no tomorrow. The pair fed of each other’s energy, creating an electric force on stage that no five-piece band could ever match. They can be wildly acrobatic and full of ferocity for the first half of a song and then slip into a smooth, quiet, emotional interlude for the remainder of the same song. Their unpredictability, individuality and sheer musical talent alone is enough to marvel at, but the way they hold people under a spell for the entirety of their set is something unlike anything I’ve seen before.