You’d be hard pressed to find a hotter act right now than Ohio duo Twenty One Pilots. Currently in the midst of a mostly sold out world arena tour, the nearly impossible to musically classify band is playing the same venues as Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and other musical icons. Five and a half years into the 2010’s, one could argue they have become the biggest band formed this decade. Their last album, "Blurryface" was a number one debut, selling 147,000 copies in it's first week on sale. While no one thing in particular is responsible for their massive success, their live performance definitely is a significant part. Last Wednesday night the duo played the second of back-to-back sold out shows at Boston’s Agganis Arena.
Dutch pop outfit, and recent Fueled by Ramen signing Chef'Special kicked off Wednesday’s show with a fun, energetic, and uplifting set. Much like Twenty One Pilots, it’s difficult to pin down Chef’Special to a single genre. There are elements of rock, hip hop, funk and even ska punk. They have landed a dream role with the support slot on tour with Twenty One Pilots and are gaining new fans at every turn. Vocalist Joshua Nolet seems to have a stage presence made for the arena’s that they’re cutting their teeth in at the moment. Throughout their set Nolet was all over the stage jumping, kneeling, and getting the Boston crowd in rhythm. The band played tracks from their 2014 album “Passing Through” as well as their self-titled EP released last year by Fueled by Ramen, their set was capped by the moving track “In Your Arms” a fun, yet emotional song much like Twenty One Pilots themselves.
Direct support act on the Emotional Roadshow tour, Mutemath was next to the stage, later in the night Twenty One Pilots vocalist Tyler Joseph would say that Mutemath were a huge influence to both himself and drummer Josh Dun when they began making music. Mutemath is a bit electronica, a bit pscyhadelic rock, and a bit post-rock so the influence they had on Twenty One Pilots is quite evident when you see them perform. Formed in 2003, Mutemath has made a solid career making music that many outsiders would also consider ‘strange’ and has amassed a loyal fan base in their years. Mutemath played several cuts from their 2015 album “Vitals” during their set on Wednesday. Frontman Paul Meany went into the crowd as well during their set, firing up the crowd even more.
As soon as Mutemath finished playing, Twenty One Pilots’ atmospheric house mix track began and built the anticipation for their set. Just after 8:50 the band came out to a rousing reaction of screaming fans as they kicked off their set with “HeavyDirtySoul” the lead track from "Blurryface". During the third song of the set, “Hometown” Tyler Joseph played the role of magician as he popped under a cloak while sitting at his piano, only to re-appear seconds later in the seats to finish the final verse of the song. For Twenty One Pilots, their live shows are about bringing each individual song literally to life. Almost every song they play, there is a different production or costume change for. About halfway through their set, the pair moved their show to a b-stage in near the soundboard to play a medley of their older songs from their pre-fame days. On the song “Holding On to You” the pair display their most energy with drummer Josh Dun doing a backflip off of Tyler’s piano and Tyler using it as a launching pad for a high jump. A fun ‘covers medley’ was next as both opening bands, Chef’Special and Mutemath came out to play and sing a long for “Twist and Shout,” “My Heart Will Go On,” Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” and “Jump Around.” Shortly after was the ultra-popular “Stressed Out” one of the hottest songs of the last year. “Guns for Hands” “Tear in My Heart” and “Car Radio” rounded out the main set, each song with its own production.
Few bands match the production and spectacle that Twenty One Pilots put on during their show; they create a living version of every song, bringing something different to the table with each one. There’s a community environment at their shows as well, their fans come to the shows in costumes and with Twenty One Pilots inspired makeup. Even the merchandise line seems to never dwindle in size. Fans of Twenty One Pilots don’t just follow the band, they truly love them.
The night was concluded with a two song encore of “Goner” and “Trees” the latter of which is the traditional closing song at all Twenty One Pilots shows. It’s hard to classify the band into a single genre, and it’s also hard to pinpoint what exactly has lead to their massive success, but whatever their formula is, they’re doing better than almost any band formed in the last decade.