Only a handful of years ago, Twenty One Pilots were playing gigs in sweaty backrooms of pubs and clubs to a hundred or so and flogging their self-funded CDs. Today they are red hot property and filling vast arenas with thousands of screaming fans who just cannot get enough of them.
Shifting shed loads of records too. They are big business. Booked for the Reading and Leeds Festivals this summer. Before that, the Dublin date on Friday 1st March of their “Bandito” tour at the cavernous 3Arena was rammed, with at least 10,000 fans gagging to see and hear their modern day heroes.
After 15 shows in Europe which kicked off on 2nd February in Russia, the boys played Birmingham, UK before nipping across the water to treat Dublin to the Twenty One Pilot experience. Before a night in Belfast tonight (2nd) and then back to the UK for the rest of the tour.
Patience was a virtue tonight, with one support act, The Regrettes, before the headliners. An energetic and powerful L.A. punk rock quartet who turned in an attitude-soaked and impressive set.
The band is led by singer and guitarist Lydia Night, joined by lead guitarist Genessa Gariano and bass player Brooke Dickinson. Drummer Drew Thomsen is the sole male with the three girls.
Lydia is only 17-years-old, hints of a young Debbie Harry in her vocal delivery, which is not a complaint! Playing tracks from their debut album, “Feel Your Feelings Fool!” whch dropped in January 2017 on the Warner Bros label, they did a good job and went down well. Great stage presence. Ones to watch, for sure. But, after the very nice starters, on to the mouth watering main course…
Formed in Columbus, Ohio 10 years ago, Tyler Joseph came up with the band’s name after reading All My Sons by Arthur Miller – about a man whose decision to send out faulty air-plane parts for the good of his business and family, caused the death of 21 pilots during the second world war.
Twenty One Pilots physically may only be two bodies on that big stage, but as soon as they stepped out to the deafening screams of a predominantly young, female audience, the volume of which would be more likely at a boy band concert or back in the day with so-called Beatlemania, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun were the governors.
They didn’t need bells and whistles. They didn’t need dancers, backing singers and gimmicks (give or take the odd burning automobile!!) They held the capacity crowd in the palm of their hands from first note to last. The fans lapped it up; their fans collectively known as Skeleton Clique or just the Clique.
A dramatic entrance, Tyler walking onto the stage holding a burning torch aloft – so it would be accurate to ‘get down wiv the kids’ and use their language to say this show was “lit”.
Lead singer, bassist and guitarist Tyler might well have heard the loud groans from the pit below that high stage coming from the photographers, when we spotted what he was wearing on his face.
A black, full face-balaclava for the two songs we were allowed to shoot. His partner Josh sat behind a giant drum kit on a riser, opted for a handerchief across his fizzog, just his eyes showing. It could have been Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp miming in front of us, for all we could see.
As the snappers were escorted out of the pit at the end of song two, the guys removed their face masks, changed their tops and the low and moody lighting changed to a blast of brightness as song three kicked off. Six depressed photographers off out into the chill night air!
With the opening numbers of “Jumpsuit” – from their fifth and current studio album, October 2018’s # 1 hit “Trench”, and “Levitate” pumped out to the backdrop of a burning car on stage, the young, well up-for-it crowd were well and truly hooked.
The simplicity of Tyler on vocals, bass, guitar and ukulele and Josh on drums makes this a compelling act to see. Stacks of power, attitude and energy compensate for the fact there are just two geezers up there doing their noisy thing. They have the chops. They’ve got it goin’ on. It is well on-trend.
The songs never lacked depth. Running through a circa 23-song set list, including dead-cert crowd-pleasers such as “Yeah Yeah”, the 1961 Elvis Presley and 1993 UB40 hit, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and “Bandito”, the set ran to nearly two hours.
Volume was loud but not silly loud, as some arena gigs can be. My ear plugs were firmly shoved in, not for the PA, but for the piercing screams! Really.
The rambunctiously “requested” three-song encore included “Chlorine”, which received probably the most vigorous response for any track of the night, and of course, their global smash, “Ride”.
They dropped two self-released albums, “Twenty One Pilots” in 2009 and “Regional at Best” in 2011, before being picked up by ‘Fueled by Ramen’ in 2012. But the lads then blasted into orbit in 2015 with the ground-breaking “Blurryface”.
Yeah, Twenty One Pilots have come a heck of long way since they formed in 2009, but with a different original line-up: Josh joining in 2011 when the pair met when playing youth basketball. You could say, the latest gig was a real slam dunk in Ireland….
Pilot and co-pilot very much in control of this supersonic, first class flight, and I had the feeling that although they gave 100% and their power never dipped once in the whole set, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Based on what I saw and heard last night in Dublin’s fair city, and the quality of their latest album, it is evident that their star is still very much on the ascent.
Ladies and gentlemen, seat belts on and and brace yourselves…thank you for flying with us today…
Words & Photos: Ian Shipley
* Full stage shot (taken on mobile) top of page: Niamh Shipley