Hands and neck covered in black. Red eye makeup. Drums, piano, ukulele, trumpet. Quick rhymes, sick beats. Tyler Joesph and Josh Dun. This is definitely a twenty one pilots concert.
Late last month on July 26, the Emotional Roadshow made a stop in Phoenix at the Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Columbus-native duo were joined by Chef’Special and Mutemath. The stage setup was different in the way that there were actually two stages. The smaller stage on one side of the arena had the obvious outline of a drum set and piano. The larger stage was where most fans crowded. By the time the show was about to start, it looked like nearly every seat (all 18,000+ of them) was filled with fans buzzing with excitement.
Chef’Special were to the first to walk on stage. A Dutch indie band with a reggae vibe, they did a great job warming up the crowd and getting everyone moving. The frontman, Joshua Nolet, bounces across the stage, busting out different dance moves. Any kind of accent indicating that the band is from the Netherlands is lost in the large arena. The fact that the slow and more sombre sounding Mutemath followed them was a bit confusing. If it wasn’t for the epic drums in the band, I’m afraid that their music would have lulled the crowd to sleep. It wasn’t a bad performance, the music was just softer than I had expected. However, the light production was fascinating, sending out laser light beams from the stage to the upper section.
The curtain fell and the drowning sounds of screams filled the arena. With a “Fairly Local” intro that merged into “heavydirtysoul,” twenty one pilots began their show. The dynamic duo graced everyone with the sounds of songs from their last album like “Hometown” and “Polarize.” Sitting behind the piano, Joesph broke into the first few notes of their latest song “Heathens” from the new “Suicide Squad” movie, and the crowd erupted in cheers.
Remember what I said about the second stage? What happened on that stage turned out to be my favorite part of the show. The duo snuck their way over to the smaller set up after a mesmerizing performance of “Lane Boy” which featured a drum solo from Dun. “Ode to Sleep” began the tribute to older TOP songs. It was followed by a medley of self-titled and Regional at Best songs like “The Pantaloon,” “Fall Away,” “Johnny Boy,” “Forest,” “Addict with a Pen,” “March to the Sea” and “Kitchen Sink.” They’re songs that many of the newer fans may be unaware of, especially when Regional at Best is so difficult to find. That said, the songs felt even more special. I even heard a few people around me choking out a few sobs as they sang along (which was completely understandable).
Chef’Special and Mutemath rejoined the stage as the first sounds of The Top Notes’ “Twist and Shout” began. All three bands danced on the stage, singing along and having a genuine good time. Dun grabbed his saxophone for an epic trumpet solo while Mutemath’s Darren King went at it on the drums again. Chef’Special’s Nolet did some break dancing while Joseph cheerily sang the words to other covers like Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” I was having a great time just watching them having a great time.
There were some expected aspects of the show that haven’t left. Ever since I first heard of this band, they have sent platforms into the crowd that would hold a small drum kit and one of the two guys. Joseph is still compelled to climb something during “Car Radio.” Emotional Roadshow is no different. What was not expected was when Joseph disappeared during “Guns for Hands” only to reappear in a giant hamster ball. He threw himself over the crowd and ran over the entire pit. I’ve never seen anything like it, and judging by the crowd’s reaction, neither have they. Last time I saw TOP, I thought they had nailed the concept of interacting with their crowd, but they never stop surprising me.
Ever since the song was released in 2011 on Regional at Best, TOP have closed their set with “Trees.” Joseph praised Dun for being an awesome drummer, bringing up the first time they played in Arizona which was in a little basement called The Nile. The song starts off soft, just Joseph and his piano, but by the end of the song everyone is screaming until their throats are raw and jumping until their legs ache. As the tone of the song dips, Joseph and Dun send their small kits into the sea of people, climbing on top of them and giving the crowd the synchronized drum solo everyone was looking forward to. The confetti is still falling as the duo take their bows and throw up the |-/ hand symbol to recognize the unparalleled relationship they have with their fans. Taking in the 18,000+ people cheering and clapping, Joseph leaves the crowd with the traditional farewell, “We are twenty one pilots and so are you.”
Thanks for reading (and being patient for this well overdue post),