Pre-teens, post grads, parents, and everyone in between packed into the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion Thursday night for a home-grown favorite.
Twenty One Pilots, a disproportionately named alternative pop duo from Columbus, sold out the first show of their 2014 Quiet is Violent tour, with a second show Friday sold out as well.
Opening for the band was Vinyl Theatre, which at first I thought was a surprising choice, given Twenty One Pilots’ rising reputation and fan base. I thought that surely, for a sold out show at home, they could have produced a more well known opener – but it turns out they knew exactly what they were doing.
The Milwaukee based group performed with precisely the high energy that an opening band should have, enthusiastic and trying to get the crowd pumped up for the rest of the show, while trying to – and succeeding in – making a good impression for themselves.
With a heavy and present, yet not overwhelming synthesizer throughout the set, the band had a well-rounded, very danceable sound. On the other hand, they had the diversity in talent to slow down and command vocals, and skill on the piano, in some songs as well.
Perhaps it was because I actually had to stand to see them when Truslow, the next opener, came out, or because the lead singer, James Truslow, came out wearing a cape – a fashion choice I detested – but the Columbus-based group didn’t get off to a great start. It seemed as though the vocals sounded muddy, and cheesy, and the whole vibe seemed to be ripping off an 80s power ballad.
However, after the first song, things picked up, and the small dot of hope left from the first song blossomed into a more solid set. The song “ADHD” showcased the vocal talent much better, and had a beat that was not only appealing to the ears but kept the whole song going strong. Yet, it seemed as though Truslow still couldn’t capture the crowd like Vinyl Theatre did.
When they played “Doctor” it seemed to be clear that although this was a good band, they just weren’t in the right venue. While they could slow their songs down and give off a Queen-esque vibe, no matter how good they were, they felt out of place in a crowd there for a more catchy and indie, rather than harder alternative, sound. Even the title track of their latest EP, “Hurricane” was admittedly fun and catchy, but just didn’t fit the mood of the concert, which seemed unfortunate for them, and explained the less favorable and more passive, though not necessarily
negative, reception from the crowd.
Finally, it was time for Twenty One Pilots, and like a brave reporter, I risked life and limb and moved from the lawn into the pit. I told myself it was for the story, and for the greater good of The Lantern, but to be honest I was a little nervous putting myself into the fray.
Looking back, however, there clearly isn’t any better way to see Twenty One Pilots. Coming out to “Guns for Hands” and donning black hoods and masks concealing their faces, singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun came out ready for the same thing as the crowd – an intense show.
After a passionate opening, the stage went dark, and a recorded narration, in a British accent, spoke, repeating “Only skeleton bones remain, only skeleton bones remain,” until Joseph and Dun appeared on stage again, only this time-wearing skeleton outlined hoodies and masks, and performing the much more intense and darker, “Ode to Sleep.”
The narration, quickly named Nigel by Joseph, spoke in between songs about “his” favorite artists, such as DJ Khaled, that he listened to in his car, revealed to be a Bugatti – prompting samples, done by Joseph on the ukulele, of the Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” and Ace Hood’s “Bugatti,” much to the amusement of the crowd.
The banter between the British recording and Joseph continued, prompting Nigel’s wedding song, which was apparently Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love,” which transitioned to the 40s pop song “Fools Rush In.” Eventually the band ended up playing “House of Gold,” which is actually a song written by Joseph.
Joseph and Dun, until April of 2012 unsigned, were a remarkable sight with a large lighting budget and a sold out venue at their disposal. The lighting effects alternated to capture the mood, which ranged from slow and solemn blues and greens, to flashing reds and whites, often in back in forth in the same song. The crowd was just as focused and responsive to the duo’s unique stylistic strong suit of mixing fast rapping with intricate, slower refrains.
Despite being only two years signed, Twenty One Pilots had five years of musical material to pull from Thursday night, so when they included “Addict with a Pen” from their first, self-titled and self-released album, it gave perspective on how they could showcase music from their different eras as a band.
Taking advantage of being in his hometown, Joseph brought out his brother Zack on “Kitchen Sink” for a verse Zack has on the recorded album, but never gets to sing on tour. Joseph also pointed out his mother and grandfather in the audience, and according to an Instagram post, Debby Ryan, Disney Channel star turned musician, and current girlfriend of Dun, was in attendance as well.
Leaving the stage, and trying to connect with the audience, Joseph and Dun stood on platforms held up by the crowd and played bass drums to falling confetti for “Trees,” during the encore – an encore which was prompted, of course, by Nigel – leaving the audience in awe.
When there are two incredible musicians such as Joseph and Dun take the stage, and take it in countries all around the globe, one would think it would be easy for them to play a show and move one, always to another crowd, but they tried to make their hometown feel special Thursday night.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s good to be home,” said Joseph, in towards the end of the hour and twenty minute set, “I realize that this city has defined what it looks like to put on a Twenty One Pilots show all around the world. There are different places that try to do it, but you guys do it the best.”
Twenty One Pilots plays again at the LC Pavilion, Friday, Sept. 5th. Doors open at 6 p.m., and tickets are currently sold out.
Correction: In a previous version of this review, Zack Joseph’s first name was incorrectly spelled “Zach.”