Twenty One Pilots
Review: Matt Doria – UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney 20/04/2016
Photos: Sarah Lay – The Forum, Melbourne 27/04/2016
A ghastly siren trickles out from two speaker stacks on each side of the venue; smoke bellows from underneath a veiled platform and a microphone lowers gently from the ceiling, a red light fitted in its bulb an unnerving hue to aside a bassy rumble. Without a word of warning appears Tyler Joseph, a skeleton hoodie zipped over his face as he raps the scatterpaced “Heavydirtysoul”. To his right: Josh Dun, clad in a shimmering golden Halloween mask and pushing a pair of drumsticks far beyond their limits. A tambourine skitters behind a set piece when Joseph decides to spontaneously collapse – photographers fight over the perfect shot, our protagonist no doubt smirking maniacally under his mask before he jolts to his feet, slams another verse, tears back his hoodie and stares flakily into a sea of 2,000. A reverberated synth lead pushes “Stressed Out” to the foreground. Chaos ensues.
This is Twenty One Pilots. “These guys will be huge,” BLUNT writer Sarah O’Connor proclaimed in a 2013 Paramore review – she knew what was up. The three years that followed would see the Ohio duo surge from a lowly club act with Fueled By Ramen debut Vessel to Top 40-commandeering luminaries at the hand of last year’s Blurryface. Tonight inducts the second tour of Oz in pageantry of the latter; one that, despite extra shows and upgraded venues, sold out in less than a day. For those watching by the sidelines, this amount of hype must seem absurd. Rocking up to the UNSW Roundhouse in the early afternoon presents a line that wraps around the entire forecourt, most painted in body grease and crimson eyeshadow (as per the current aesthetic).
It’s seconds into the set that the devotion makes sense. Pounding strobes, skies of smoke and thrashing hordes of overexcited teenagers stand as cornerstones of the 90-minute presentation, but as rowdy as the crowd may be, it’s Joseph that reigns as the king of irritability. Finding a moment where the frontman stands still is a fruitless endeavour – he bounds around the stage as if it were his personal mission to ensure that not an inch of the floor lay put without a footprint. Though elaborate backing tracks mostly build the set, Joseph occasionally finds himself perched behind his signature piano piece, swept up in a ukulele jam or strutting around with a bass in hand. Theatricality reigns in the centre of it all, the band refusing to let five minutes pass without a new scene or theme in motion.
Atop a Broadway play’s worth of wardrobe changes and enough stylistic shifts to straight-out murder a genre elitist, the band shine a spotlight on the interactive element. “We Don’t Believe What’s On TV” serves as a feel-good singalong of monumental proportions (hearts irreparably wretched by a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” swiftly thereafter), before punters are ushered to kneel down and then spring into action for the breakbeat drop on “Lane Boy”. Joseph is held up by the crowd for the opening verse of “Holding On To You”, while Dun uses the cut’s interlude to chuck a sneaky backflip before jumping into the crowd himself to drum from a platform-set kit on “Ride”. Stage banter is kept to an absolute minimum, Joseph opting out of verbose tour stories and instead interjecting every now and again to remind bystanders to take care of each other.
A rollercoaster of emotions, sounds and personas leads us to the poetically chilling “Goner”. Solidarity seeps through the hall as Joseph pours his heart and soul into the confessional ballad; a booming crescendo shoots our collective energy through the roof, but it isn’t until Dun and Joseph both find themselves in the crowd that our goosebumps reach maximum bumpiness. The night comes to a meteoric end with the pair drumming out the ending of “Trees” in tandem, an eruption of streamers, smoke, water and confetti sending the encore staple out on the type of bang most bands seldom achieve.
Twenty One Pilots will go down in history, and this is the live show that will cement their immortality.
Twenty One Pilots
Sat April 30th – Groovin The Moo @ Prince of Wales Showground, Bendigo – SOLD OUT
Sun May 1st – Groovin The Moo @ Murray Sports Complex, Townsville
Tue May 3rd – The Tivoli, Brisbane – SOLD OUT
Thu May 5th – The Astor, Perth – SOLD OUT
Sat May 7th – Groovin The Moo @ Hay Park, Bunbury