by Jerri Starbuck
The Bandito tour is in full swing, making a stop at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center (at UT). Twenty One Pilots are used to playing much bigger arenas and music festivals but couldn’t pass up Austin on this tour.
Last year, the duo broke a year-long silence with hints of the new album and tour. The boys from Ohio haven’t been touring since they took a break from their massive rise with Blurry Face in 2015 with the Emotional Roadshow World tour. Although they’ve been around since 2009, they blew up with this album. Their hit “Heathens” made the group the first alternative artists to have two concurrent top-ten singles in the United States.
One reason this is a must-see tour for 2019 is the amazing production and stage athletics. Tyler Joseph jumps atop a 20-foot column at each show, Josh Dun backflips on stage, and the lighting and sound are epic (with many semi trucks of gear to prove it). There are numerous wardrobe changes usually only seen by megastars like Cher or JLO.
The show kicked off with a torch-wielding Joseph and fiery apocalyptic looking set with an old burning car and tons of fire all around with scaffolding and the guys in intimidating black ski masks. The entire production was one of the biggest we’ve seen this year including pyro, floating bridges, a rising drum set, a B stage, major laser-light show, smoke effects (in pink), and complex movie-like videos on screen.
At one point Dun played drums above the crowd on the floor while they suspended him in the air above their heads. We’ve never seen this done before; the guys are truly pushing boundaries and creating a unique fan experience. In another song, Dun backflips off the piano and then Joseph jumps off the burning car. There was a small B stage that was reached by a suspending bridge so fans in the back of the arena could have a front row seat. The guys played a few chill songs with the piano there before returning to the main stage.
See tons of concert photos on our website.
The stellar songwriting by Joseph is behind Pilot’s rise to fame. He says he wakes up in the middle of the night with melodies in his head. A gift and a curse perhaps. It’s evident in the songs that the theme is the human struggle for purpose and meaning and the importance of self expression. They’ve also been open about overcoming demons (also evident in the dark lyrics) and there’s no hiding important topics of faith, anxiety, and depression; it’s part of what makes them so likable and relatable to their young fanbase.
Their artistic nature and cool factor (various piercings, tattoos, and athletic wardrobe) along with massively relatable lyrics are what draws fans of all ages to their shows. There are tons of kids at the show most of whom stand the entire show and shout all the words to every song. It’s an interesting observation since many of the lyrics lean to the dark side (“sippin’ on straight chlorine”, “heavy dirty soul”, “help me polarize”…).
The music is impossible to label as it crosses so many genres including pop, reggae, rap, post punk, indie, synth, alternative, and classical. One song can remind you of Linkin Park and the next Eminem. Within a song, they bounce from catchy riffs to dead silence to rap. Both are self-taught musicians playing a multitude of instruments on stage including vocals, synth, ukulele, piano, drums, keyboard, guitar, organs, bass, trumpet.
The set included major hits from award-winning Blurry Face— “Stressed Out”, “Heathens”, “Ride”, and “Lane Boy”. The setlist was jam packed but we were bummed they didn’t play other hits from the breakout album, “Heavy Dirty Soul”, “Hometown”, and others. Playing mostly songs from their recent Trench album (2018), TP finished the set with an encore including top new song “Chlorine”- complete with Ned, the animated character in the music video.
There was a touching moment in the evening when Joseph paid tribute to his grandfather who died last year before hearing the song “Legend” written for him. Sadly he died before the song was finished. It’s a deeply emotional point of the night. His grandfather was a proud supporter and fan, often sporting the band’s merch.
Twenty One Pilots are one of the biggest bands on the planet and have come a long way since writing songs in the basement and giving away free tickets to their shows in Ohio. Their success hasn’t erased their humility. The guys were humble and took the time to thank their entire crew and tour for all their hard work.
This concert will definitely rank up there with the top shows of the year (with JLo, Dead and Company, Ed Sheeran, Rolling Stones…). They’re already working on the next album. Not sure how that tour and production could top this, but we sure can’t wait to see if it can.
See our complete photo gallery form the show on Austin 101.
Today’s Your Day (Wachagonedu?)
We Don’t Believe What’s on TV
Nico and the Niners
Holding on to You
Cut My Lip
(With The White Stripes “Seven… more )
(Crowd sings with lyric video)
Leave the City