REVIEW: Twenty One Pilots rise from the trenches in Chicago

twenty one pilots
Photo by: Lindsay Davis

Walking into an arena brings on this immediate anxiety and excitement knowing you’re going to get to be apart of something that so many fans have been longed for. Twenty One Pilots have risen from the darkness of the music industry, against critics calling them sell-outs, accusations of being too pretentious, how they fail to truly fall into a genre, and having a pop-style sound with lyrics that are too intense. Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph have proven that you don’t have to conform to the standards others expect of you when it comes to what your music should be, and that you shouldn’t.

Chicago brought out an array of personalities, appearances, and attitudes all their for one common bond: love of two artists who have undoubtedly conquered the pop market. While waiting to photograph their set, fans who stood in line for hours told stories of what Twenty One Pilots meant to them. Tears streamed down some fans faces, others smiled from ear to ear in anticipation of what was going to be “the best show of my life”, as put by one female fan. Some sported their favorite Twenty One Pilots merch, some replicated Joseph and Dun’s iconic outfits and red masks, while others showed up just to be themselves.

Finally the curtain dropped, with Dun walking across stage carrying a lit torch. Screams of fans echoed across the arena as Joseph appears from the floor mid stage on a burning car replicating live the opening scene from their video for “Jumpsuit” off their latest release Trench. Trench came with a lot of apprehension and mixed emotions upon its release, but the duo crossed a multitude of genre boundaries in a cohesive story told to their fans through the lyrics. The duo kept it ominous and dark into “Levitate,” not revealing their faces to fans and photographers.

Twenty One Pilots show whisked you away to another world through their set in Chicago. Visually telling stories through lasers, catwalks barely over their fans, screens displaying the two pouring their souls out to their fans. Moving to B Stage to play “Taxi Cab,” “Neon Gravestones,” and “Bandito.”

During “Neon Gravestones,” images of Dun and Joseph played on a semi see-through screen surrounding the guys in the middle of the arena. Lights dimmed and fans asked to have a seat. It’s no secret that “Neon Gravestone” is a raw journey into the more criticized side of mental health. Some critics accused the pair of being unsympathetic victims in the lyrics, some claiming they were too harsh for the subject. Joseph is known to take a head on approach to the unknowns of life and what is held deep inside of all of us through his lyrics.

“I am hopeful that people know what I’m trying to say,” he says. “Because it’s potentially hurtful, potentially harmful, potentially offensive, potentially…I’m singing what I would want to hear and what I do need to hear. And I feel like there is a group of people like me who will respond to a challenge and respond with a little bit of conflict and a win/loss mentality. I know if someone challenged me with that, I would get behind that. I would be inspired by that and get excited by that—and that approach would help me,” Joseph explained in a previous interview regarding “Neon Gravestone.”

After the darkness subsided, the pair came back full force to their audience finishing up on their middle arena stage with “Pet Cheetah” before heading back to main stage to play “Holding on to You.” The evening morphed into a throwback with a cover from Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” where Twenty One Pilots brought out supporting artists Max Frost and AWOLNATION to play along.

Twenty One Pilots continued to amaze their fans for the rest of their set, including a two song encore, closing out with confetti that had the hearts of young and older fans ecstatic to be able to share an evening with one common goal—to love the music from some of their favorite artist. It is strongly suggested to go spend an evening with the duo on the “Bandito Tour.”