Last night, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots brought the ‘Bandito’ tour to the Manchester Arena with style. Amidst a sea of yellow merchandise and masking tape, the duo pulled out all the stops to make sure that every single area of the arena truly felt like they had been a part of an amazing night.
Before delving into the experience that Joseph and Dun provided however, it is worth a mention for the opening act: The Regrettes. The opening act has a tendency to fade away from memory but the girl-power, punk band’s rendition of Poor Boy definitely got the pit up on its feet. Similarly, lead singer, Lydia Night’s instruction for all of the girls to scream, and then subsequent warning for all of the boys to remember how powerful that scream was in the future definitely made its point clear.
After a 30 minute wait, set to music from the Fortnite loading tune, the curtain dropped and Josh Dun emerged in yellow, carrying a torch from one side of the stage to the other. Joseph followed soon after, atop a burning car, to screams from every section of the arena. Then, before so much as an introduction we were straight into Jumpsuit and then seamlessly into Levitate. They wasted no time either in pulling out their bag of tricks, as Josh’s drum-kit moved about the stage from left to right throughout Levitate. Then, in personal highlight of the night, mid-way through their next song, Fairly Local, Joseph fell backwards through the stage and magically appeared on the upper balcony seconds later!
The rest of the night had a similar theme of wondering what would happen next, and where Joseph would next appear, in the best possible way. Songs were done from the main stage, the upper balcony, their ‘B stage’ in the middle of the floor, on the pit, on a walkway above the standing area, and on a podium facing the seating area at the back of the stage. This really made sure that every section of the arena knew they were a part of the gig and just emphasised the importance that Twenty One Pilots as a band put on their fans. It may also seem strange that I said songs were done “on the pit,” but I mean it literally. They brought out a mobile drum-kit and had the pit in the standing section carry it, Dun then joined it and Joseph did a few meters away as well. Or, in the most literal metaphor I can provide, the fans really did carry the gig!
They were far from satisfied with just switching locations though, as most of the songs seemed to have something special and different about them, just for the fans that were there. Far from just going through the motions and playing through a setlist, the duo made sure that they gave every one of their fans, from long time members of the clique (the name for their fanbase), to newcomers who perhaps just liked their latest album, Trench, something to enjoy. Old favourites such as guys in hazmat suits from Lane Boy were brought back, and they were mixed in with newer themes. Ned even made an appearance on the big screen during Chlorine. As if just to really hammer home this theme Joseph changed his clothes six times during the whole gig, with each outfit referencing a particular song, album or theme.
However, in perhaps the only disappointment from the night, the band also played ‘The Quiet Game,’ as they have done on every leg of their European tour so far. The aim, of course, is for the audience to stay silent as long as possible, and despite Tyler even offering the incentive of an extra three songs if the crowd could reach just four seconds, the arena only managed 1.96 (which was likely generous itself). A chorus of boo’s subsequently erupted towards the offenders, but the negative feeling didn’t last long and soon the gig was back in full flow, with Joseph jumping all around the stage and Dun doing backflips off the piano.
There were no lengthy speeches and no obvious underlying themes for the night. In fact, the only moments when Joseph did take a break from the songs were either for thanks directed towards the fans, his crew or Dun, or in brief interlude during Morph to put the big screen cameras on the security guards at the front while they danced “like nobody is watching.” There were screams aplenty, there was laughter and a good portion of the crowd made sure that they always carried the songs when Joseph passed the musical baton. All in all, it is hard to imagine how anyone who was already a fan of their music could have walked away disappointed from the Manchester Arena that night.
The ‘B stage,’ which they had previously used in the American legs of their tour, was used to great effect mid-way through the gig, with a light show above their head perfectly in tune with the music, and even the encore made sure the whole arena was bouncing!
Overall, the gig gave the impression of a band that has never forgotten about its fans, about the people who gave them the success they enjoy today. Twenty One Pilots write songs about insecurity, anxiety and mental illness more generally, but when you go and see them live it becomes clear that this is how Joseph has learnt to deal with all of it, he feeds off of the energy from the pit and the crowd in general. I think the tour’s namesake song, Bandito, sums it up best, “it helps to hear these words bounce off of you, the softest echo could be enough for me to make it through.” No doubt hearing 20,000 fans, kitted out in yellow and hanging on his every word not only lets Joseph know that he has the whole crowd behind him, but it lets everyone in the crowd know that they are a part of something. That they aren’t weak, and that it may be a long road to get there, but eventually, every last one of them will make it out of Trench because they are not alone.
Standout songs: Fairly Local, Stressed Out, Lane Boy, Pet Cheetah, Car Radio and Trees.