For as long as one can recall, twenty one pilots‘ music has been a prominent point of self-reflection for people going through tough times – just ask their fanbase. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun’s music can be observed as a vehicle for all sorts of catharsis whilst still telling a story of their own. Last year, the American duo put out the darker and more introverted Trench, a record which has elevated the band to arena and festival headline status all around the world. Not that this should come as much of a surprise, though; twenty one pilots are – regardless of what your average rock fan would think – a solid live band with enough tricks up their sleeves to keep you on your toes from start to end. Last night, the pair stopped off at Brussels’ 15,000-capacity Palais 12 for two solid hours of intensity, bombast and hits.
Opening on the gritty, fuzzed out tones of comeback single Jumpsuit, Joseph & Dun set the bar pretty high for what was set to follow. They’ve always had a flair for the dramatic, and so having a burning car accompany them on stage only seemed like the most logical thing to do. Right? The darker undertones on Jumpsuit serve as a common thread across most of Trench, including following track Levitate‘s hi-speed raps (and smartphone flashlights courtesy of the crowd, almost in unplanned unison). People often forget that Joseph is one hell of a good rapper, and he certainly doesn’t get enough credit for it either. There’s the occasional slip up live (very rare, at that), but on the whole Joseph is the perfect frontman. A double-whammy of hit singles Fairly Local and the massive Stressed Out appeared early on, the latter featuring thousands of hands in the air and fans filming the pop anthem through their smartphones. An “I was there” moment, if you will. It served as a powerful start to an ultimately memorable show, one which leant heavily towards last year’s Trench and its 2015 predecessor, blurryface. The Ukulele-led We Don’t Believe What’s on TV allowed for 15,000 lungs to join forces in singing along to Joseph’s catchy vocal lines, something which also proved true for a lilting The Judge and Lane Boy dark swagger. New track Nico & the Niners made for one of the first main gimmicks of the night, with Joseph parading himself up and down a catwalk which hung suspended above the crowd. Quite the sight to behold, and definitely not the last we’ll see of Joseph (and Dun) in and amongst the crowd.
That’s because they use Nico & the Niners as a perfect transition in moving towards a B-stage near the back of the room. Here, Joseph and Dun perform three tracks in a more intimate setting, getting up close with fans and breaking the barrier between performer and fan. Neon Gravestones, Bandito and the bass-laden Pet Cheetah – all taken from Trench – feature on this B-Stage, with the first two tracks lowering energy levels before a slightly buzzier Pet Cheetah injects a small dose of hype into the room. This hype – and the subsequent energy – hits an all time high when the band return to the main stage for a rousing rendition of fan favourite Holding On To You, one of their strongest songs. This energy doesn’t last long, though, as it leads into a new concept which the band have started rolling out on this tour: The Quiet Game. It involves the entire venue trying to stay as quiet as possible for as long as they can, with the results from each city documented on Instagram. Brussels managed 2.54 seconds before one male fan shouted (view that here), resulting in boos from the crowd. “This song goes out to everyone but the guy who ruined The Quiet Game” stated Joseph ahead of Ride. During Morph, Dun stood atop the crowd behind his drumkit. It’s another one of those sights to behold, and it’s something which he’s been doing for a while now. It never gets old, with Joseph repeating a similar trick by climbing atop a pillar during older cut Car Radio. It’s one of the band’s breakthrough songs, and it’s safe to say that some fans had trouble wiping the tears off of their faces. These sad vibes were sustained during Chlorine and Leave the City, too.
Just as with the band’s tour in support of blurryface, the live show came to an end on Trees (taken from 2013’s Vessel). It’s become a live staple, largely due to its euphoric nature. The band uphold this euphoria by means of confetti, c02 and one last descent into the crowd. Both members are perched atop a supportive group of fans who hold them up as they perform Trees with percussive instruments. It served as a bombastic ending to a show filled not just with wonderful production gimmicks, but also fantastic music. Some may write twenty one pilots off as “just another pop band”, but live it is so much more than that. Joseph’s vocals were on point the entire night, almost as if it was absolutely effortless. The (sometimes necessary) backing track they make use of at certain points is a bit of shame, although when there’s just two of you there isn’t really a way around it. New album Trench follows an introverted path, especially in comparison to prior releases, but live it sounds far more powerful than you could have anticipated beforehand. Joseph and Dun wear their hearts on their sleeves, and it shows. There’s this intriguing power behind twenty one pilots which is equal parts easy to spot and hard to place. Whether you’re a fan or not, twenty one pilots are deservedly well on the way to becoming the biggest band in the world – and that’s if they aren’t already at that stage already.