Twenty One Pilots brings production value to Rogers Arena

Twenty One Pilots and Bear Hands at Rogers Arena, 5/12/19

Photo by Ryan Johnson | Twenty One Pilots

Experimental pop-punk duo Twenty One Pilots turned Rogers Arena into the fictional totalitarian city of Dema on a Sunday night Mothers’ Day show.

The Skeleton Clique, as their army of fans is known, came prepared. Decked out in the band’s signature yellow tape, toques and balaclavas, the sea of yellow in the pit was a sight to behold.

Brooklyn pop-punk band Bear Hands served as the opener, but they seemed almost too ordinary in comparison to what the crowd knew was to come, not getting particularly excited.

Twenty One Pilots shows are known for their production value, and their music is a genreless, always surprising concoction of hip-hop, hard rock, sugary pop hooks and even some reggae.

Photo by Ryan Johnson

Sure enough, drummer Josh Dun emerged first, face obscured by a balaclava and carrying a lit Molotov cocktail, while multi-instrumentalist frontman Tyler Joseph jumped off of a dilapidated car – which lit on fire – and started playing the opening riff of their heaviest song, “Jumpsuit.”

Their latest album, Trench, tells the story of rebels trying to escape a city controlled by a totalitarian regime, and the duo certainly dressed the part.

The production value continued throughout the first song as it started snowing in the arena, but their most impressive trick of all came during third song “Fairly Local.”

Photos: Twenty One Pilots: Bandito Tour | Rogers Arena
Photo by Ryan Johnson

Joseph fell backwards into a hole at the back of the stage, suddenly appearing immediately after in the upper deck of the arena to finish the song. He even finally removed his mask, so the crowd knew it was really him.

The duo did two of their biggest hits in “Stressed Out” and “Heathens” early, saving the songs with narrative importance for the bigger moments in the show. Switching it up for “Heathens,” Joseph played a seriously impressive intro on a piano that was just tiny enough for him to jump on top of from time to time.

The surprising piano skills were just the beginning – you never quite know what you’re going to get at a Twenty One Pilots show since they throw so many musical directions into the mix, and Joseph actually brought out a ukulele at a loud rock show for a four-song sequence. Like their unique musical combinations, it strangely fit.

Photo by Ryan Johnson

Dun, on the other hand, was a constant energetic force sticking to the drumset, getting multiple solo opportunities and frequently going shirtless.

Joseph was a hilarious and engaging master of ceremonies all night. “Any questions?” he asked in a break, actually pointing to a raised hand in the crowd. “I can’t hear you. It doesn’t work like that, this is a concert, you kidding me? Whose idea was that?”

During emotional ballad “Smithereens,” he switched up the lyrics: “I’d sing this song for you right in Vancouver/I forgive you even though you don’t have Uber.”

For all of Joseph’s many musical abilities across a wide spectrum of genres, his greatest strength might be writing a catchy, inescapable pop hook, and there were multiple massive singalong moments that showed why the band is playing arenas.

Whether it was the earworms in “Cut My Lip,” “Morph” or “Chlorine,” the crowd was ready to belt out all the new material.

Photo by Ryan Johnson

Closing the show with “Trees,” not only did Joseph crowdsurf, but so did Dun – on a tiny platform carrying a full drumset which he continued to play on.

The duo played for over two hours, never taking their foot off the gas pedal. Triumphantly holding up the band’s hand symbol, Joseph made one final address:

“We’re Twenty One Pilots, and so are you. Goodnight!”