Image by: Maisy Riera
Concert Reviews

Concert Review: Twenty One Pilots Land In Auckland

Where: Spark Arena, Auckland NZ
When: 21 Dec 2018
Simon William Todd
My Blood

After a couple of nights of camping out and camaraderie in front of the arena, swathes of yellow-gaffer-taped-up fans flock to the front in anticipation of Twenty One Pilots taking to the stage for the last show of The Bandito Tour 2018

Drapht is the Aussie MC, who with an awesome line in "way-oohs", did a great job at warming up the crowd. Don Quixote has a winning mix of sprightly rapping and summer-with-the-window-down driving beats. Drapht twirls around the stage like a bird on the wind.  Ear worms like Sing It (The Life of Riley)  up the ante with a fun whistle-along top line, and Jimmy Recard uses  guitarist Timothy Nelson's ample vocal prowess to make it the one we're all singing this morning. 

The 'old Fortnite music' provides the backdrop to a tense 40-minute wait for the headliners - all the set up is done behind a black curtain and the merest sight of a roadie causes screams from the pit. 

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Dark synths power out of the dark as Jumpsuit begins the headliner's act. From behind an on-fire car, out walks a sinisterly-masked drummer, Josh Dun. He stretches out his arm, to carry forth a flaming baton to warn and welcome. Meanwhile, frontman Tyler Joseph, also masked, chugging bass in hand, lurks and paces ominously. 

The response from the screaming hoards of fans is holding their phone touches aloft, covered with special yellow paper - the colour of liberation in Dema, the city at the centre of struggles on the Pilots' new album, Trench

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The car is still on fire, sometimes emitting bursts of flame, the heat from which is palpable. As is the amount of sheer love coming from the packed arena throughout the set. This is sing-along-to-every-word territory, and the mood is infectious, even for the high number of dads who've come as chaperones to the die-hards. It's lovely to see this acknowledged - at one point cameras pick out 3 'dads' who Tyler Joseph asked to show the kids how to dance. 

Throughout the set, Twenty One Pilots utilise what can be a sterile arena setting, to full, emotive and inclusive effect. To see unified fans, both arms held aloft and swaying side to side, like 12,000 palm trees in the breeze, is enrapturing. 

At the end of Levitate , Tyler Joseph is covered in a black cloth. In a moment that could be from The Prestige, it falls to the floor, him gone, only to reappear on a pedestal, half way up the arena floor. Motionless and lapping up the screaming applause, he, perhaps knowingly,  whips off his mask to quash any nay-saying mumblings of 'body double'. Theatrical delight. 

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Both Joseph and Dun have ants in their pants. Whether back-flipping or doing the flying splits off a piano, or crowd surfing while banging water-covered drums, the boys sure know how to put on a show. 

Musically, while Twenty One Pilots have definitely got all the tunes, it's a pity not to see a few more live musicians; the presence of a synth player for example - cause the synths are big and gloriously dark throughout, but still somehow buried on a backing track. 

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Joseph and Dun smash, rap, ukulele, bass and ivory-tinkle their way through a bevvy of belters, but in a way, the audience is the band's backing group.

On tracks like  We Don't Believe What's On TV the call and response, "1, 2, 3 / yeah yeah yeah" was euphoric, and during the slowbie, Taxi Cab, all was quiet except the choral voices from, as Joseph calls them, "my people in the pit". 

A show of hands indicated that this was the first Twenty One Pilots show for a lot of the crowd. As the band continue their tour into 2019 - first stop Kiev, then Moscow - and as jubilant faces made their way into the night, the sound of sons pitching holidays to Europe to their dads, to make sure a second showing won't come soon enough, filled the warm Christmas air. 


Radio 13 thanks and credits Maisy Riera from Castor & Pollux for all the images featured in this article.

Written By: Simon William Todd After loitering on the periphery of the London indie scene in the 1990s, Simon hot-footed it to Aotearoa where he loves his family, English language teaching and writing swan songs. He is a keen follower of Tāmaki’s maunga, enjoying rough and smooth basalt alike. A gig and album reviewer and now radio DJ as well, Simon champions the seedier side of electronic pop and indie rock.