Chicago – Twenty One Pilots have this amazing, loving fan base that refer to each other as The Skeleton Clique. My little cousin is among the clique. I remember when he saw Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun play at The Bottom Lounge some time ago. He told me I just had to check out this band called Twenty One Pilots because they were “sooooooo good!” I gave them a listen. They were great, but honestly, I didn’t quite understand his crazy and intense fandom borderline obsession, seeing them again and again whenever they came to town. That is, until I saw them live. I took my cousin to Lollapalooza last year, and of course he insisted that we see this awesome duo. We pushed our way to the front and waited out the rain in our ponchos. Let me tell you, I sure was happy we did. Twenty One Pilots blew my mind, whipping around the stage, jumping and spiraling towards the crowd with so much energy and mutual love for their skeleton crew. Which is precisely why I was excited to check them out again, in all their glory, at The Riviera on Friday night. True to form, they did not disappoint. If you have never seen the two Ohio natives live, you simply must. This in an order: no ifs, ands, or buts about it. A Twenty One Pilots show is one for your musical bucket list.
The guys started the night out with “Guns for Hands.” Tyler Joseph jumped on his worn piano, singing and dancing atop it. Fans sang along and cheered him on as he jumped off the piano and onto the stage. The twosome’s music has been given many labels. Wikipedia defines it as “indie pop, alternative rock, indietronica, rap rock, piano rock, folktronica.” Bottom line, it’s truly unique, but perhaps most importantly, it is genuinely heartfelt. Tyler and Josh pour every ounce of their souls into their music and live performance. Really, it’s more than a performance. It’s an extravaganza. Josh’s drumming is just out of this world, and the fact that he drums in the crowd, literally with support from fans, is beyond impressive. Tyler, well, where to even start? He effortlessly floats between singing and rapping and from playing piano to synths to ukulele. Their production and artistry, combined with multiple costume changes and killer lighting make for one heck of an experience.
Throughout the show, the boys fondly talked to their devoted. Tyler said, “Man, I gotta tell you we’ve been looking forward to this show for so long!” By the looks of it, so had the fans. People were decked out to the nines. Girls had painted their faces to look like skeletons, some guys donned homemade t-shirts, while others made signs of love, and one chick even made a headband with the Twenty One Pilots logo on it. Tyler and Josh recognized this and shared some loving words with their Midwest fans when talking about their success. “We’ve been traveling around a lot. We played on TV.” Fans screamed and clapped when Tyler referred to their recent performance at the MTV Music Video Awards. “I see a lot of familiar faces in the crowd. There’s one thing I know: this venue sold out before we were on TV! Chicago, you will always feel like home!”
Most of the songs the guys played were off of their studio debut Vessel. However, they did cover the Tears For Fears classic “Mad World,” but it sounded much closer to Gary Jules’ version. Nonetheless, it was incredible! They also played the oldie “Isle of Flightless Birds,” and of course they played the radio hit “House of Gold.” Fans cheered as Tyler started playing ukulele. During “The Run and Go,” Tyler sang, “Tonight I need you to stay,” and then screamed, “I need YOU Chicago!” As the night drew to a close and they approached their “last” song, Tyler joked, “Between you and me, this next song is our fake last song.” He then playfully explained their encore plans before kicking off “Fake You Out.” Tyler and Josh soon returned for “Car Radio” and “Trees.” Before the guys broke into their “real” final song of the night, Tyler gave his thanks: “I know I’ve been a little sappy today, but I want you to know I feel so honored to have fans like you. Know this: We will always be back to Chicago!” The Skeleton Clique then began to pull out folded pieces of paper from their pockets. They opened them to expose hundreds of thank you notes and stood silently, proudly holding them high as Tyler began to sing, “I know where you stand, silent in the trees. And that’s where I am, silent in the trees.”
Twenty One Pilots are on tour until the middle of May. They’ll also be playing a few festivals over the summer.
(All photos by Sarah Hess: smhimaging.com)
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.