On Sunday night, American musical duo Twenty One Pilots opened “The Bandito Tour” at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC.
I have watched singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun grow over the years.
The first time I saw them was back in 2014 when they played at The Rio Theatre across town just off Commercial Drive. The duo wowed the sold out venue with a theatrical set and won them over with their ability to connect with their audience.
Since then, I had seen them three additional times before Sunday’s show, and on top of that, I was lucky enough to get to interview them right before they completely blew up – 2015 interview with Twenty One Pilots.
There stage show has evolved over the years but they still hold that unwavering ability to connect with their fans during their shows.
On Sunday night, things started off with Mr. Dun marching out on stage in the darkness with a flaming torch in his hand, his head covered by a hood and the bottom half of his face covered by a bandana.
The audience howled with excitement. Their raucous roars pierced through the arena air.
From the back of the stage a car rose up from the depths. Billows of flames poured from the vehicle and the hazey silhouette of Mr. Joseph could be seen standing on its roof.
By this point the patrons around me were screaming at full force. Many closest to the stage extended their arms, holding single yellow flowers towards the band. Their faces also partially covered by yellow bandanas. It made Twenty One Pilots feel more like a movement than just a musical group.
The setlist started with the intense single “Jumpsuit” from their latest album, 2018’s Trench. Tyler’s screeching vocals during the chorus slapt the night in the face, and we were off.
The general admission floor became a chaotic sea of bouncing bodies.
Josh sat sturdily behind his kit as he dramatically beat his drum sticks against the heads. He stared out menacingly at the crowd, his hood and bandana still in place, looking something like the Scorpion character from the Mortal Kombat video game series.
Tyler stalked around the stage, his face covered by a black balaclava. He worked between the burning car, his wooden piano, and front-centre at the mic stand. He carried a manic but still quite controlled energy about him as he dashed about the stage keeping in tune with each track at a near album-perfect pitch.
The stage arrangement was built for visual overload; an impressive gathering of video walls, lasers, vertical smoke blasters, computer-controlled lighting rigs, and moving stage components. The pièce de résistance was a giant walkway that lowered from the ceiling adjoining the main stage to a smaller, secondary stage at the other end of the concert bowl.
The excitement level was still growing, as the band rolled out fan favourites “Lane Boy” and “Nico And The Niners”.
As they wrapped up Niner, the bridge slowly decended into place and Tyler worked his way along it, taking time to playfully peacock for the disciples all around. Once at the other end, he took a seat at a wooden piano and Josh appeared from the darkness and took up residence at a medium sized drum kit.
The twosome spent some time on a few slower jams in “Smithereens” and “Neon Gravestones”, which then rolled into the tours title song “Bandito”.
An interesting structure above their heads mechanically lowered and raised a series of long illuminated pole-like structures. The lights were choreographed to each song. It made for a ethereal and haunting moment.
The duo returned to the main stage by way of the bridge.
The palpable energy in the attending throng was starting to peak. We were reaching the denouement of the evening.
During their performance of “Morph”, Josh climbed atop a third, small drum kit that was placed on the outstretched hands of the patrons below. He crowd-surfed and drummed as the song rolled into a cover of “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes.
Each song seemed to intensify over the last; in delivery and in reception.
It was during the first song of the encore that we hit maximum overdrive. The low-fi recorded vocal opening to “Chlorine” echoed through the air as the simple and contagious drum beat kicked in. Once again the audience roared alive with excited screams, nearly as loudly as they had at the beginning of the show.
I looked around and many of the fiercely dedicated fans were not only singing along but also were overwhelmed with emotion, tears rolling down their smiling faces. It was a very beautiful moment, one that is rare for most concerts these days.
The night drew to a close as the band finished things off with “Trees”. They stood front and centre as billows of smoke repeatedely fired from the stage and finished off by a huge explosion of confetti shooting forth and filling the entire arena.
They thanked the audience and took a joint bow and then left the stage.
Twenty One Pilots sometimes get a bad rap from those that don’t follow them or that don’t know much about the,. It is a real shame because they are doing something special that is truly inclusive of their fans. They also put on one of the best live shows around.
If you are on the fence about seeing them live, do yourself and buy that ticket. These two young musicians work hard to earn their keep.
I want to thank the band and their crew for a great night out, until next time.
Twenty One Pilot’s setlist
We Don’t Believe What’s on TV
Nico and the Niners
Holding on to You
Cut My Lip
Leave the City