19 Mar 2019
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Gig Review: Twenty One Pilots @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 21/12/2018

22 Dec 2018 // A review by Paul Goddard

The last time Twenty One Pilots came to Auckland I wasn’t sure what to expect. Although I enjoyed their music it wasn’t something, I was rushing out to buy. That gig ended up being one of the best I have seen by any artist and still stands in my top 5 all-time gigs.

Their genre blending musical style is amplified further in the live arena where they seem to relish transforming the songs, themselves and the arena into an insanely creative mix of pyrotechnics and mind blowing illusions all aided by an ever growing army of rabid fans known as the Skeleton Clique, many of whom have been camped outside Auckland’s Spark arena today wearing striking yellow and black outfits to match Twenty One Pilots latest album Trench.

Drapht aka Paul Reid has made the hip hop over the ditch to open for this last show on the current leg of the Bandito world tour. The Aussie Aria winner opened with a largely pop centric set that went down well with the growing crowd. Adding live guitar and drums was a nice touch and stand out track for me was Jimmy Recard with its trip hop vibe and instant hook.

Drapht was always going to be the quiet before the storm tonight as the Skeleton Clique are known for their obsession with everything Twenty One Pilots.

As soon as Drapht bounces stage right the curtain drops and all background music is replaced with a looped sample that builds on the air of anticipation. A swirling yellow light is projected onto the curtain and every increase in its brightness or an when an unsuspecting member of the road-crew is caught walking across stage, is met with the scream of thousands of teenage girls.

This continues for about 30 mins and then we are blasted with a huge bass rumble as the curtain falls and it’s game on or maybe that should be flame on.

Tyler is centre stage, trademark balaclava in place with a flaming torch in hand, behind him a car is in flames and as they launch straight into Jumpsuit the place goes nuts.

There is a front of house crew tonight that looks like a NASA mission control and it is no wonder as the lights and video imagery go into sensory overload. The attention to detail is next level with video overlay’s and graphics that track Tyler and Josh as camera crew roam the stage. For the first few songs the mood is dark and explosive and during Fairly Local Tyler disappears under a sheet only to reappear seconds later in the midst of the crowd to continue the song.

It is moments like this that make a Twenty One Pilots gig feel almost like a theatre show. Every time the room darkens, and the music stops you can see the crowd looking around to see what is going to happen next. Their music and ethos is based on community and inclusivity so it is no surprise that Twenty One Pilots have made this the core of their performance and are one of the few bands since U2 who can make an arena or stadium feel intimate.

A video into leads into massive hit Stressed Out complete with a red beanie being lowered onto the stage which is one of multiple outfit changes that happen seamlessly with almost every song.

As the show progresses the band appear more relaxed and the crowd become even more responsive. There are plenty of crowd sing along moments and even a section where the band highlight some of the, shall we say, more elderly gentlemen in the crowd focusing the cameras on them for a bit of impromptu dad dancing.

I would argue that Twenty One Pilots are amongst the most creative artists around today and the show never loses its flow or connection with the crowd. If I wrote about everything that happened during the almost 2 hour set I would need a few more hours and 20,000 more words.

Their musicianship and in particular Tyler’s voice is impeccable but Twenty One Pilots are more than just a great band. They are using every part of their artistry to connect and get their message across and unlike most who try and fail Twenty One Pilots succeed and lead.

Twenty One Pilots will be coming back to New Zealand. If you haven’t seen them then you really should. There are not many bands who can connect with people like these two guys do and sure their fan base may be mainly teenage girls but don’t dismiss them as some over-hyped pop band. They are 5 albums in and latest album Trench has seen them continue to push the boundaries.

It is really simple Twenty One Pilots create great music and with their shows they also create great memories.

 

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