Music News & Reviews

Candy-coated music therapy: Twenty One Pilots treats KC crowd to sweet, sad songs

Twenty One Pilots’ appearance at the Sprint Center on Wednesday acted as a massive group therapy session.

More than 13,000 people experienced communal catharsis during a two-hour rendezvous with the duo’s impassioned music.

Formed in 2009 in Columbus, Ohio, Twenty One Pilots specializes in twitchy songs about social anxieties, personal insecurities and crippling depression.

The despairing themes of the compositions are conveyed with sugary music. The set list of almost two dozen songs Wednesday was as varied as the confections in a bag of gourmet jelly beans. Each distinctive selection was sickly-sweet, infuriatingly addictive and left a lingering synthetic aftertaste.

The nebbish rapping of the primary songwriter Tyler Joseph is closer to the novelty artist “Weird Al” Yankovic than to the rap kingpin Jay-Z, and his singing often is little more than an indistinct bleat.

Joseph’s everyman persona, persuasive sincerity and astute songcraft offset his limitations.

Nothing impedes Twenty One Pilots’ live presentation. Wednesday’s show certified the duo’s reputation for lavish productions that combine unbridled imagination with advanced technologies.

A rendition of “Jumpsuit,” the arena rock song that opened the band’s set, was accentuated by a car covered in flames and the first of the evening’s confetti blasts. The jaw-dropping special effects and breathtaking lighting designs never let up.

A typically stellar moment came when Joseph took a dramatic backwards dive into a pit in the main stage and instantly reappeared amid fans in the upper tier of the arena. (The trick was made possible by masks worn by Joseph and a body double.)

Based on the decibel level of the screaming, the most compelling visuals had nothing to do with trickery or machinery. Mayhem ensued when the shirtless drummer Josh Dun revealed the letters “KCMO” scrawled across his muscular torso as he crossed a bridge between the main and secondary stages.

Twenty One Pilots was joined by its opening acts for two songs.

Max Frost — a roots-rock revivalist for the Snapchat generation — and Awolnation, the group responsible for the grandiose 2010 hit “Sail,” contributed to interpretations of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”

The choices reflected the affinity for yearning that makes Twenty One Pilots’ original material resonate with its admirers.

A fan on the floor brandished a handwritten sign that read “I stayed alive for you.” It’s likely she found the concert a curative experience.Twenty One Pilots’ life-affirming show was capable of restoring the spirits of even the most despondent concertgoer.

Set list: Jumpsuit; Levitate; Fairly Local; Stressed Out; Heathens; We Don’t Believe What’s on TV; The Judge; Lane Boy; Nico and the Niners; Taxi Cab; Neon Gravestones; Bandito; Pet Cheetah; Holding on to You; Iris; Hey Jude; Ride; My Blood; Morph; Car Radio; Leave the City; Trees.