First coming to Australia in early 2014 in support of Paramore, Twenty One Pilots (often shortened to TØP) have graced our shores twice more in the year and a half since – most recently this month.
Last Sunday July 5, TØP played not one but two high energy shows at Richmond’s Corner Hotel. The afternoon set for the underage crowd was sold out weeks beforehand; and the evening performance was similarly full to capacity – with the line stretching down the street hours before doors even opened. The fans gathered eagerly from all walks of life; wearing a combination of home-made shirts, merchandise from previous tours, makeup reminiscent of that sported by band members Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun at different points, sporting tattoos dedicated to the band, home-made Sharpie drawings similarly adorning their skin, and overwhelmingly unified by their passion for the two-piece.
Their performance is high energy, featuring front man Tyler Joseph intermittently playing piano, bass guitar, singing with microphone in hand or from a mic hanging from the ceiling, pacing back and forth at the front of the stage or indeed climbing onto the crowd to lead them in a rendition of fan favourite songs. The audience in turn watch Joseph’s every move, singing back to him and at times leading the song as he watches, unable to hide a grin. Drummer Josh Dun sits further back on the stage, almost so as not to detract from Joseph’s stage antics. Multiple lighting changes, costume switches and after a little audience banter, (“is it anyone’s birthday here today?….yeah i don’t care” Joseph quips with a laugh and follows up with “I love doing that; I’m sorry!”) are par for the course as Twenty One Pilots power through their impressive set list. The audience is captivated, by turns singing, rapping, dancing and jumping as instructed by Joseph – even keeping up when the lyrics seem impossibly fast; blurring the line between spoken word poetry and rap. Older songs like Car Radio (in which Joseph reflects on the thoughts which plague his mind when he is left sitting in silence) are interspersed with tracks from the new Twenty One Pilots album Blurryface such as recent singles Fairly Local and Stressed Out (which sees the band confront the little voice in your mind that fills you with doubt, sadness or insecurity – named Blurryface by Joseph).
As an encore, Twenty One Pilots come back on stage (after explaining “we’re going to pretend this is the last song, and then we’ll come back and play another”) and perform one of their older songs – Trees. While every TØP performance typically ends with a rendition of this track (in similar style to Fall Out Boy performing Saturday), the emotional power of this song doesn’t fade. Every person in the room sings along in perfect unison, finally chanting “hey” as Joseph and Dun perform their most impressive maneouvre of the night; climbing atop the crowd and performing a synchronised drum routine.
The cheers don’t die quickly, Dun and Joseph stand on the stage waiting for it to quiet down for close to 2 minutes, Joseph making several attempts at speaking but being overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, before he manages to step forwards and say the words that strike the heart of every person there. “We are Twenty One Pilots, and so are you”.
The mutual love between TØP and their fans is reinforced post-concert as hundreds of audience members wait in hopes of meeting their idols. While Joseph is otherwise occupied, Josh patiently talks to and takes photos with people, despite the chill of the night and his probable tiredness.
TØP seem to almost effortlessly encourage a kind of devotion among their fans – equalled only by that of their own devotion to their fans. Tackling issues of depression, anxiety, self-doubt, love, loneliness and hope, Joseph and Dun are candid about their struggles, and through their music they offer a life line to the audience watching below, It is this kind of reassurance of belonging, understanding and acceptance; that brings such a diverse group together on a cold, mid-winter Sunday night.