Peering across a sea of heads, heavily dotted with red beanies and an excess of plaid, my friend and I watch the roadies complete the final sound checks for two American boys. Birmingham’s The Institute suddenly went dark except for a lone, glowing mic, dangling above the stage. The screams that erupted instantly drowned out the beginning of the opening number, “Stressed Out”, and set the vibe for the rest of the show.
Twenty One Pilots, comprised of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun—who are neither twenty-one nor pilots—brought high energy and passion to their performance that paled only to the fervour of the crowd. Don’t get me wrong, even as a recent inductee to the band I instantly loved Twenty One Pilots, and I like to think I know their tracks pretty well. But the crowd’s mass knowledge of lyrics put me to shame. I like to think that Tyler even felt a bit intimidated. Maybe.
But is that not a sign of a strong artist—their loyal following? Regardless, the boys put on a killer show and rewarded the audience’s enthusiasm with plenty of antics. Working their way through the most recent album, Blurryface, the lads were hoisted above the crowd to beat drums and Josh threw a couple souvenir sticks into the audience. Tyler even took a moment to sing a couple of bars of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” to his wife who, as I was told by a teenaged fan, was the pretty blonde watching from the sound booth. Treating the audience in the balconies to an extra-close appearance, Tyler appeared above us on the edge of the balcony to dangle his legs over.
Twenty One Pilots displayed their trademark and impressive diversity, whipping out a number of instruments throughout the show. Tyler covered vocals, guitar, piano, and ukulele; while Josh owned the drum kit and effortlessly switched to trumpet. This is arguably one of their strongest attributes to their unique sound and keeps the lines of their genre blurred. Despite the crowd’s singing deafening out Tyler’s voice, one couldn’t help but be sucked into the energy of the show. Enthusiasm was the word of the night, and both the boys and the crowd delivered. This was further evidenced by over a hundred keen teens queued up instantly post-performance behind The Institute in hopes of meeting the band. We joined in and eavesdropped on the fans that chattered passionately about Tyler and Josh with an intimacy that implied best friendship, and most certainly proved a love of the two musicians. Sadly, the band did not make an appearance that night, at least not before we lost our patience and wandered off in search of edibles. Overall, super show. Twenty one thumbs up.