While few consider themselves dancers, there are some situations during which you cannot help but lose your inhibitions and dance. On Saturday, Aug. 6, the entire audience was bitten by the jitterbug at the Twenty One Pilots concert at the Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth. It seemed as though all audience members became dancing fools, not caring what they looked like or who was watching. The band’s passion was contagious, and made for one of the most engaging live shows I’ve attended.
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Twenty One Pilots has reached international recognition. You cannot turn on the radio without hearing one of their many hits, whether it be “Stressed Out,” “Ride” or their newest single “Heathens.” Despite Twenty One Pilots’ skyrocketing popularity and success, the two best friends have stayed true to their humble roots. This is evident in their engagement with fans throughout the show. Their Duluth performance solidified their status as extremely talented yet unpretentious musicians, a rarity in the entertainment realm.
Joseph and Dun came alive in their performances. The Georgia stop of their Emotional Roadshow World Tour celebrated the duo’s entire discography, highlighting both old and new songs. Joseph and Dun paid homage to their beginnings with an 11-minute medley of some of their oldest songs, including “The Pantaloon,” “Fall Away” and “Johnny Boy.” Despite the extensive set list, they remained kinetic and lively throughout, as if each song was the beginning of a fresh performance. At one point, Joseph sang a verse to the audience, which responded with the following verse, while Dun backflipped off of Joseph’s piano. Electricity seemed to thrum through every person in the arena, matching the performers’ vivacity. In particular, Dun’s energy was remarkable. The drums became an extension of his body — he jumped and bounced as he hit each drum and cymbal. Throughout their performance, both artists entered the general admission pit and fans held them up as Dun banged on a mobile drumset and Joseph sang his heart out.
Not only did the duo express this energy throughout the show, but the performance was reflective of Twenty One Pilots’ ideals. A key theme was embracing what sets one apart from the rest — quirks, oddities and simple weirdness. The audience, especially the pit, maintained a friendly and almost familial environment. Fans sang to each other, hugged and held up their hands to make the trademark symbol of Twenty One Pilots. The visuals of the show captured this flawlessly — unique video footage matched a light show and left the audience in awe.
After witnessing Joseph and Dun perform, it is no wonder they consider themselves a live band. The two’s infectious energy was mirrored by their fans, who went to extraordinary lengths to show their devotion. Members of this “family” (as they refer to themselves) replicated Joseph and Dun’s style in both garb and spirit. Some smudged red paint under their eyes to match Dun’s signature look, while others coated their hands and necks with black paint to represent Blurryface, a character created by Joseph that symbolizes the insecurities he shares with society.
With a combination of confetti, fog and lighting that matched the theme of their songs, it is evident that Twenty One Pilots wanted the performance to be the best that it could be. The two worked tirelessly to transport the audience into their world. Twenty One Pilots reminds us of what music is all about — the experience of listening and engaging with society, on individual and collective levels. Not only have Joseph and Dun made a special mark on the music industry, they have breathed new life into the otherwise overdone yet underwhelming arena of live music.
Throughout the concert, I forgot that I was watching two strangers perform. Joseph and Dun connected with their audience on an intensely intimate level. The secret ingredient that sets Twenty One Pilots apart is a shared passion — one that belongs to the duo and their fans. As long as their fans were expressing themselves and experiencing the music, they could dance however they liked, no matter how ridiculous it may have seemed. Twenty One Pilots reminded us of what music is all about — unapologetic fun.