Lasers and magic tricks and hamster balls! Oh my! Twenty One Pilots are certainly a set of showmen you need to see.
I’m standing at the center of the floor of the Honda Center in Anaheim California, colors distorted by an arena bathed in red and surrounded by a melting pot of music fans: Foot-long white bearded grandpas, 4-year-olds rocking their finest vests and ties and dads in fedoras who still look like the inventors of cool – just older, wiser and passing on their Mohawk hair styles on to the next generation.
Tweens in tie-dye and braids and soccer moms in their old grunge flannel are all starting to chant, “T-O-P! T-O-P!” Then a single bass cord is struck somewhere onstage and the crowd erupts. Everyone starts to get up out of their seats and the cheers die down, but then another note rings out and the anticipation hits a new high. The claps begin “Clap-Clap-CLAP! Clap-Clap-CLAP!” collectively attempting to taunt them out of the darkness. Finally, THERE are the drums and the lights come up to explode with “HeavyDirtySoul” from their fourth studio album Blurry Face, and their music video projects onto large screens flanking the stage.
A mic snakes down from the roof for frontman Tyler Joseph to wield his bass for “Migraine” while drummer Josh Dun stands and pounds his kit, too much adrenaline flowing to sit down for several songs to follow. The energy is palpable from these ski mask-clad men: lasers are shooting off in every direction, lights rapidly changing color, and videos alternate between live video and psychedelic visuals that make it hard to open my eyes wide enough to see everything there is to see. They then run through Hometown before its time to take a breather – and by breather, I mean Tyler decides to LITERALLY disappear from the stage. A sheet is draped over him and whoosh, a spotlight watches the sheet drop to the ground only to spin around and find him two tiers up in the balcony. I’m still blown away as I write this that he got that far, that fast. “Message Man” starts with their video and rolls into “Polarize.” “Heathens” begins slow and deconstructed, which Tyler lets the audience sing the majority of and encourages them as they go along together. The whole experience feels very interactive and welcoming. They are certainly entertainers first, but with multiple trips into the audience, it feels much more inclusive and like a party for their fans. “Lane Boy” has everyone dancing and smiling at each other.
It was two hours straight of constantly running across the main stage, switching to a center stage, jumping off of pianos, floating above the audience on plexiglas platforms (drum set and all), climbing scaffolding, and running across the raised hands of their doting fans in a life-sized hamster ball. I am exhausted just recapping their show, but I would see it again and again. True to humble form, they ended the show with thanks: thanking us for joining them, thanking each other for taking the epic ride together and finally asking, “Did we do okay for you all?” Yes, gentlemen, you did much more than okay.