August 10, 2016
Madison Square Garden
New York City, NY
Minutes before the start of a Twenty One Pilots concert, fans chatted nervously amongst each other trying to pass the time. The people in the pit squeezed together, hardly leaving enough room to think, let alone breathe. Flashes from phones went off in every corner of the arena as many tried to get the perfect picture of the stage. Then out of nowhere, the lights dimmed and an almost haunting sound lingered over the crowd like an indistinguishable fog. The voice of “Blurryface” echoed throughout the room and immediately dominated the surroundings.
I saw Twenty One Pilots this past summer – the first time they performed at Madison Square Garden. The weather started off dreary with a slight rain, but by midday, the hot August sun shone down in the Big Apple. It’s as if the weather represented the theme of the band: life gets better. As show time grew closer, I could feel my palms begin to sweat and my heart beat fast, realizing that I was about to witness literal history.
If I wasn’t already in love with Twenty One Pilots, this concert solidified any of my uncertainties. Although Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun are the only two band members, they were able to keep the audience entertained the entire hour and a half. It is so obvious that a great amount of time was spent finalizing every part of the show. Graphics that pertained to each song played on the screen behind the band, which added yet another dimension to their already dense songs. My favorites included a silhouette of Tyler during “Guns for Hands” and a single red bird flying among numerous white birds during “Goner.”
The various stage tricks and interactions between the audience were another aspect that Twenty One Pilots excelled in. If the start of the concert wasn’t intense enough, a long red microphone dropped down from the ceiling as Tyler began “HeavyDirtySoul.” During the last chorus of “Ride,” Josh climbed onto a small drum set in the pit and played the remainder of the song there. At the end of “Car Radio,” Tyler climbed a tall platform in the back of the arena, finishing off the song with ski mask in hand. However, my favorite stage trick happened to be during “Hometown” when Tyler sat at his piano and crew members covered him with a sheet. A few seconds later, a bright spotlight shone ten feet away from me as Tyler proudly stood atop a black box and smiled at the stunt he played on the fans. It was one of the greatest feelings to be just 10 feet away from somebody who changed my life and probably thousands of others.
Twenty One Pilots traveled around the country and performed the same show almost every night for a significant period of time. However, the aspect that made this show extremely special for the fans including me was the fact that Tyler and Josh had never played at Madison Square Garden. I am almost positive every diehard fan coming to the show that night was aware of this fact, as were both band members. Of course, the struggle with that was for Twenty One Pilots to figure out how they were going to acknowledge the fact in a matter that was fitting. Tyler did just that during his mini-speech directly before their final song. He stood on stage playing the keyboard as he expressed his typical “thanks for an amazing opportunity” sequence. Then he continued to explain how he and Josh would have never gotten this far and the fans are just as much Twenty One Pilots as the two people who physically perform on stage every night. He used the phrase “We did it” to symbolize how the fan base and band had worked together in order to achieve their level of success. It is hard to put into words how moving his speech was without listening to it in real time. However, every sentence Tyler spoke seemed so genuine and profound that I had a hard time believing these two men were any less than thankful.
Once the speech had ended, the duo performed “Trees,” which is a fast-paced yet extremely emotional song. For the finale, both Tyler and Josh climbed onto platforms held up by members of the pit and beat a set of large drums with everything they had. It was a moment of catharsis as all of my problems seemed to be washed away by the red and white confetti that poured from the ceiling. Tyler and Josh made their way back to the stage as Tyler announced the famous line: “We are Twenty One Pilots, and so are you.” I snapped a few pictures as both men took a step back to soak in the fact that they had just performed in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden. Looking back at those pictures, their faces had the same expression as mine.