The live footage that flashed across video screens at Twenty One Pilots’ sold-out concert at the Sprint Center on Sunday occasionally captured images of fans shedding tears of joy.
The extreme emotional response wasn’t unwarranted. While Twenty One Pilots is a lightweight pop group, its two-hour show was often spectacular.
The Ohio duo of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph and drummer and trumpeter Josh Dun was playing in small clubs less than three years ago. The band’s popularity exploded with the release of their fourth album “Blurryface” last year. The duo was clearly prepared to make the transition to arenas.
Even though the production wasn’t unusually lavish, the fast-paced concert was one of the most visually stimulating shows in recent memory. In addition to standard effects like lasers, confetti cannons and a secondary stage at the back of the arena, the gimmicks included Joseph’s foray into the audience in a giant hamster ball and Dun playing drums on a small platform held aloft by fans.
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A couple of the best effects didn’t cost a dime. Dun conducted a backflip off a piano while Joseph constantly bounded about the stages as if he were assisted by stunt rigging. Partly because most members of the audience threw themselves into singing along to every selection with commensurate gusto, Twenty One Pilots’ songs seemed surprisingly substantial.
Deceptively astute juvenilia, Twenty One Pilot’s repertoire reflects the neuroses of teenagers. The anxious narrator of the band’s biggest hit “Stressed Out” expresses an infantile desire to “turn back time to the good old days when our momma sang us to sleep.”
Joseph’s considerable charisma compensated for his vocal limitations. His adenoidal singing caused him to sound like a nervous teenager asking a girl to a middle-school dance during “Heathens.” His rapping can be even more troublesome. Judged by hip-hop standards, his feeble flow and basic rhyme patterns were embarrassingly weak. If considered as diary entries read aloud, however, his frequent spoken word passages were effective.
Dun’s drumming was so ostentatious that it was easy to forget that much of the music emanated from pre-recorded tracks. The duo was joined by the members of the opening acts Chef’Special and Mutemath for a medley that included hits associated with the Beatles, Céline Dion and Justin Bieber.
While not nearly as distinctive as those acts, Twenty One Pilots proved Sunday that it’s worthy of its phenomenal popularity.
Heavydirtysoul, Migraine, Hometown, Polarize, Heathens, We Don’t Believe What’s on TV, The Judge, Lane Boy, Ode to Sleep, medley, Holding on to You, medley, Ride, Stressed Out, Guns for Hands, Tear in My Heart, Car, Radio, Goner, Trees