As we neared the two-hour mark of the Twenty One Pilots Tuesday night concert at Save Mart Center, singer-songwriter Tyler Joseph told the crowd, “This is a Valentine’s Day I won’t soon forget, my friends,” then launched into the final song of the night, “Trees.”
I don’t think any of the fans who filled the arena to the rafters and packed the designated floor space like a can of sardines will soon forget, either. When the two-hour-plus show ended with a burst of red confetti – along with Joseph and collaborator/drum master Josh Dun crowd surfing on a drum kit – there was a collective “Wow, that was AWESOME!”
And that’s no exaggeration.
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This duo is really astonishing. They’re somehow humble yet bold. Intimate and energetic. Quiet and loud. Fun but thought-provoking.
This is not bubblegum music. These songs explore deep feelings, which is probably why this tour is called the “Emotional Roadshow.”
I walked away with my own set of deep thoughts.
For one, I couldn’t help but reflect on the lyric in “Stressed Out” that says “wish we could turn back time.” I so wanted to turn back time to my youth – to the days when I was one of the kids losing my mind over my favorite band. A teen girl sitting behind me Tuesday night summed up the feeling just minutes before TOP took the stage: “Oh my God, I’m freaking out!”
It also made me think about the power of music and how some generations are lucky enough to have a band surface that encapsulates the young point of view so clearly. Where the music is cathartic and speaks for something more than just sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. For me, it was Nirvana. I wonder if it’s Twenty One Pilots for this generation? It sure felt like it during this concert.
It was as if every kid had a lyric video playing in front of them. This crowd knew every word to every song. They sang their hearts out, jumped to the music and let loose.
The great thing is, Joseph and Dun have found a way to encourage this interaction in a way that feels fresh. There were no long, canned speeches about playing in Fresno. There were brief comments – much that may have been choreographed, as is standard on most tours – but it never felt contrived. It felt real. And it was creative.
The disappearing act: At one point in the first part of the show, Joseph sits at his keyboard, is covered with a black sheet and poof, he vanishes and appears in the upper deck to finish the song.
The masks: It’s part of the band’s act to cover their faces, an attempt to create faceless art and expression. But it’s not just one mask. It changes. From black to white to skull face and alien. Each adds to the effect and mood of the song.
Minimalist digital staging: Being just two guys, TOP does not have a lot of equipment to fill a stage. And they didn’t fill it up with backup players or props. Just a couple square risers, drums and a piano against a very cool digital screen that flashed images choreographed to each note.
Wild crowd surfing: It’s not unusual for rock stars to jump into the crowd. But these guys took it to a new place. Wood pallets were brought out over the fans on the floor – and I mean literally, the fans held the risers – and Joseph and Dun hopped on. Then there was Josh’s brother crowd surfing in a giant hamster ball.
Live gaming: Fresno “Mario Kart” player Patrick Abraham was brought on stage to play Joseph live. He lost. The crowd was happy.
The second stage: The duo flipped the arena, appearing for a short set at the back end of the floor. Nothing fancy here, either. Just drums and piano and them.
Cover jam with the opening acts: TOP was joined by Judah and the Lion and Jon Bellion for a four-song cover medley: “Tubthumping,” “No Diggity,” “Where is the Love” and “Jump Around.” Songs the guys grew up with.
My best compliment to the show, really, is that it felt short. That’s a sign that it never lagged, lost energy or my interest. I was captivated.
At one point Joseph stopped to talk about the Grammys, where Twenty One Pilots won an award and gave an inspiring speech in their underwear. He talked about taking a day off the tour to enjoy that odd spectacle, but how he really just looks forward to playing live: “You guys make this feel like home.”
I think TOP makes fans feel at home. So when Joseph says he hopes to be back in Fresno with new music and new songs one day. All I can think, is “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.”