Some bands are made to play to a mass audience. From the operatic rock theatre of Queen, to the earthshattering rock of much of the 70’s, 80’s, and even into the 90’s with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam that filled arenas with their angst and frustration toward the older generations. Some bands create a sound that it may not seem like at the time, but are just best suited for a large crowd that is so dedicated and willing to participate that it soon becomes part of the live sound.
In 2015, Columbus, Ohio duo Twenty One Pilots would release arguably one of the most popular albums of the past decade in ‘Blurryface.’ In many ways the album was a continuation of lead singer songwriter Tyler Joseph’s deep dive into his psyche, anxieties, and fears following up their 2013 album ‘Vessel,’ which also garnered the band a huge following and success.
‘Blurryface’ went on to sell 1.5 million traditional albums, as well as two songs that would land in the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Later “Stressed Out,” one of the massive hits off of the 2015 album would win the Ohio duo a Grammy for “Best Pop Duo/ Group Performance,” which they would except in their underwear on stage. Solidifying them as a powerhouse act who would go on to selling out Madison Square Garden for two nights that same year.
With that came a massive fan base and popularity, but there was something different about the audience Tuesday night at the U.S. Bank Arena when the duo stopped through on their ‘Bandito’ World Tour. The Cincinnati audience resembled that of a European soccer match, chants with call and responses that seemed organically created, and inside jokes that only true fans knew.
The crowd was accepting of one and other in their weirdness or their crazed fandom of the band. From starting the wave that went on for ten minutes to flashing lights on phones and waving to other members in the audience that may have been in the top row. Sharing the experience with one and other, there was a real communal feeling with the crowd that is hard to emulate, the crowd was genuine. A reflection of the music that they were there to see maybe.
The show began with Misterwives opening, with their upbeat brand of soulful indie pop. The performance was fun and light hearted, with even a cover of Lizzo’s massive hit “Truth Hurts.”
As U.S. Bank began to fill up to the rafters, it was clear that this was one of the more heavily attended shows that the arena has had all year. With the anticipation growing, the curtains dropped abruptly and arose Joseph and drummer Josh Dunn atop a flaming junk yard car, resembling the set of their music video for “Jumpsuit,” off their latest album ‘Trench.’ Dunn slowly skulked down from the car with a torch in one hand, both their faces covered a staple for the beginning of their performances. An ominous beginning to the show, then led immediately into the song ‘Jumpsuit.’
Once the two were off they would only slow down for set changes, but each song giving a performance as if each song was their last song of the night. Between walking atop the crowd to Dunn performing a drum solo on a board held up by audience members, which has now become another staple of a Twenty One Pilots show, the duo left nothing out on the stage.
Some of the biggest highlights from the show may have been when the two came out to the second stage set up in the middle of the arena. Where Joseph sat down at his piano, to begin a somber rendition of “Smithereens,” that led into a partial version of “Migraine,” and “Tear in My Heart.” The three stacked together were all a more stripped-down version of the originals and allowed longtime fans to enjoy the best parts of their catalog in a way they hadn’t before.
With all the pyro techniques, fireworks, and grandeur that came with their performance, the two still knew how to bring the songs back to what made them so popular in the beginning. The lyrics from Tyler Joseph, that echo the pop sensibilities of Robert Smith of the Cure. With Dunn’s production of beats that are so in tune with genre’s like hip-hop, pop, EDM, rock, and even reggae it’s that knowledge that made bands like Nine Inch Nails so massive as well. The pair are so in tune with not only each other’s talents and abilities, but what is popular with music today.
As the night came to an end, instead of blowing the roof off the place, Twenty One Pilots decided to return to one their earliest songs “Trees,” which is one of their softer tunes. With the crowd singing along to every word. Joseph said that the Cincinnati audience, most of whom had either camped out that morning or traveled from all over, was the best audience they had had on the tour thus far.