Review: Twenty One Pilots

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There’s a generally happy atmosphere filling the Ritz, with a crowd consisting largely of teens, sporting brightly coloured hair, accompanied (seemingly reluctantly) by their parents.

The support act, Jeremy Loops, instantly captures the crowd’s attention with an energetic harmonica solo, before launching into what can only be described as ‘bluesy beat-box harmonica’. It’s rare to see a support act to engage the entire crowd so quickly, but Loops somehow manages it.

Loops continues with an eclectic set, at one point bringing out a children’s toy (claiming he ‘borrowed’ it at a friend’s child’s birthday party) to record drum loops, before a saxophonist joins onstage with a solo that sends the crowd wild. It’s hard to exactly pinpoint a genre for Loops’ music but, given the diverse range of Twenty One Pilot’s music, the eclectic style of their support act really shouldn’t come as a big surprise…

The atmosphere is palpable after Loops finishes his set and the crowd prepare for Twenty One Pilots. As the lights dim the crowd go mad, followed by Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun entering the stage wearing their signature balaclavas for the opening of ‘Heavydirtysoul’.

The crowd screaming the lyrics back at Joseph almost overpower his vocals in ‘Stressed Out’, but he embraces it. This energy continues throughout the show, with Joseph’s constant movement around stage and frequent leaps on top of his piano. A quick shout of “is everyone having a good time?” is met by massive cheers, before the band play ‘Migraine’ and let the crowd sing the entirety of the first verse.

A brief lull sees Dun plays a short drum fill before Joseph reappears on stage in his signature floral kimono and large sunglasses combination, also clutching a ukulele, in preparation for ‘We Don’t Believe What’s On TV’. Whilst looking across the crowd I catch sight of a few audience members waving material identical to that of Joseph’s kimono, as well as some also bearing the signature grease-painted black hands with which Joseph has become associated.

It’s clear that both Joseph and Dun thrive off the audience’s energy and are giving their all to the performance.

A somewhat ominous voiceover precedes ‘Lane Boy’. Joseph performs the first verse with the kimono covering his head, emphasising the unusual and eccentric style with which we have begun to associate Twenty One Pilots and their performances. Despite his efforts, there are momentary lapses in Joseph’s straight-faced expression where he can’t help but smile at the magnitude of the audience’s reaction to their music. A brief moment of darkness and calm at what appears to be the end of ‘Lane Boy’ disappears when the lights come back up to reveal Dun closing the song with an energetic drum solo.

Photograph: Sammie Caine
Photograph: Sammie Caine

Joseph joins the front of the crowd for the opening of ‘Holding On To You’ , before being joined by Dun atop the piano, who backflips off before returning to his drum kit to continue the song.

The band take it to the next level in ‘Ride’, where security emerge at the front of the crowd holding a drum kit, which Dun climbs up before casually playing the drums for the remainder of the song from his new position above the audience’s heads.

Continuous acknowledgement of the crowd and their singing reinforces just how much this means to Joseph, who dedicates the next song, ‘Tear In My Heart’, to the audience by saying “if it was your birthday today, or any other time in the past year, this song’s for you”.

The show closes with ‘Car Radio’, with Joseph and Dun wearing their balaclavas once more. Before the end of the number Joseph disappears off-stage, re-emerging on the upstairs balcony, surrounded by fans all looking slightly overwhelmed by their proximity to the musician.

Cheers for an encore erupt from the crowd and the band oblige with the emotional piano-based ‘Goner’, bringing the audience to a quiet calm. Joseph responds to the crowd’s applause, saying “right now there’s no place else I’d rather be than playing music with you guys”.

Photograph: Sarah Whale
Photograph: Sarah Whale

An energetic second encore sees the return of drums to the crowd, which the band play whilst propped up in the air by the crowd, closing the show in magnificent fashion with pounding drums and filling the air with colourful confetti. The duo spend a solid couple of minutes stood centre-stage as the crowd continue to cheer, before saying “we were Twenty One Pilots, and so are you” and exiting the stage.

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