Twenty One Pilots at Skyway Theatre, 4/17/14

Twenty One Pilots
with NONONO and Hunter Hunted
Skyway Theatre, Minnepolis
Thursday, April 18, 2014

Don't let their name fool you. The Ohio band Twenty One Pilots is really only just two guys, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. The two performers are doing things and making music that nobody is really doing right now; they combine genres of music -- dubstep, hip-hop, indie-folk, rock, reggae -- that may look like they don't belong together on paper, but sonically and visually come together to make one hell of a show.

See also:
Slideshow: Twenty One Pilots electrify Skyway Theatre

It's as if the pair had ADD and decided to bring that craziness to the stage. Joseph and Dun arrived onstage with ski masks and blue suit jackets. At first, it looked like a Slipknot show, and the only thing that changed was the color of their masks and the intensity of the songs. But by the third song in, Tyler pulled off his mask and revealed a face that looked like it belonged on your kid brother.

The pieces were still as fun and clever without the masks, but they took on a different light and intensity. While some performers only stick to their section on stage, Twenty One Pilots decided that wasn't interesting enough and used the whole stage. Dun was on drums, so he was limited to where he went, but Joseph was everywhere -- running, jumping off his keyboard setup, and at one time on a platform 20 feet in the air.

Their stage antics didn't deter from the music, though. Some musicians often have at least one piece in their set that have people losing interest or glancing at their phones. The only time people were using their phones was to snap a picture or record what was unfolding. Joseph is the only vocalist in the band, often using live loops from his keyboard or drum pad to fill out the sound, but he carried much of the show. Even when he was merely rhyming over the drums, you weren't thinking that it was only just two guys onstage. They made sure you didn't focused on what was missing.

Not everything was crazy; on "Screen" Joseph proved that the ukelele isn't confined to young girls who want to make cheery, sunny music, but you can certainly rock out on the tiny instrument. Yet the band's biggest hit "House of Gold," does play into the cheery, sunny music category. The piece is tenderly sweet and poignant, an ode to his mother that begins with the uke and builds and swells as the drums fill in. The pull of the song was instant.

As the lights were turned down and drum pads were brought out on stage, the epicness of the Tears for Fears' cover of "Mad World" wasn't known until Joseph and Dun started the haunting first measures. As soon as they did, the crowd went a little nuts. Who knew that you could actually dance to one of the most depressing songs ever written?
Just when the band seemed to be taking a breath, stage hands brought out a previously used drum set on a platform, but this time it was going in the crowd. As interactive as a show can get, the crowd held up this platform as Josh played out his part on "Semi-Automatic."

As their set came to an end, Tyler voiced his gratefulness, saying, "We're used to playing small, local shows where we're afraid people won't show up. This next song is supposed to be our last song, but I'm going to lie to your face right now. Do you think that the first time a band did an encore, they were like, 'I disagree with your time frame!' and they went offstage and had to write another song and quickly come back onstage?"

The best songs are often reserved for encores, and Twenty One Pilots didn't deviate from that rule. The ski masks were back, and this time Joseph made sure his was on straight, because during "Car Radio," he climbed a ladder and serenaded the crowd from 20 feet in the air. They weren't done with the insanity, though. Starting off subtle and sentimental on the keys, "Trees" wove in drums and synth tracks to build into and epic dance party. The boys finished it off by grabbing some kick drums and headed into the crowd to duet on the drums and end the night on a high.

Critic's bias: I barely knew one Twenty One Pilots song before Thursday night, but had heard so much about them that I wanted to see their show. I rarely say this about bands I don't know, but these guys are amazing.

The crowd: Young, mostly college-aged kids.

Overheard in the crowd: "These guys have more costume changes than Lady Gaga."

Random notebook dump: If these guys sold ski masks at the merch table, they would make a killing.


Guns For Hands
Ode to Sleep
Isle of Flightless Birds
Mad World
Holding on to You
House of Gold
The Run and Go
Fake You Out

Car Radio

53 things you might not know about Prince
Brother Ali: My fans are kicking the sh*t out of me over Trayvon Martin

Foo Fighters photo waiver one of the industry's severest: Here's why we didn't sign
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list