Flashes of canary yellow could be seen on shirts, hats, and jackets across the vast arena during the Twenty One Pilots show at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Wednesday. Fans of the alt-rock duo sported the bright shade as both an homage to the band's newest record, Trench, and to show solidarity. Through the dark undertones in their music, Twenty One Pilots has built something of a rebellion, which was on full display at the sold-out show.
Front man Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun have written about depression and facing their inner demons for years, and built a rabid following known as the “skeleton clique” that's devoted to the band and their message. Wednesday night, the clique lit up the venue, both figuratively and literally using tiny yellow orbs and literally using their phones as a beacon, with relentless fervor. During the explosive opener, “Jumpsuit,” Joseph stood atop a fiery car engulfed in a red fog as he screamed the lyrics. Dun pounded away through a thick yellow fog, tying back to their performance back to the theme of good versus evil.
In “Nico And The Niners,” another new single, the band talks about “wearing rebel clothes” and how “Dema don’t control us,” referring to their symbol of a metaphorical prison. This song, like much of Twenty One Pilots' music, uses metaphors and villains to represent their internal battles. The color yellow, prevalent throughout their attire, album art and music videos, signifies hope.
Although they write and sing about heavy issues, Joseph and Dun are warm, inviting and even funny onstage. They have a brotherly bond that feels genuine, not commercialized or exploited. Joseph has always been the mouthpiece of the group, and Wednesday’s show was no different. Even when the singer joked about his band mate, Dun didn’t say a word and let his expressions and drum kit do the talking.
The evening maintained a balanced ebb and flow. Calmer songs like “Heathens” created a tranquility amongst the crowd. Joseph started behind the keys for the track, and trickled in the stair-stepping verses with a elegance. Just as quickly as he spikes up the aggression and rage with gritty roars, he can dial it down and smooth out the wrinkles. This juxtaposition has become more prevalent in their latest work, putting a stronger emphasis on the elasticity and flexibility of Joseph’s voice.
Fans love Trench because it’s vulnerable, resolute and introspective. They feel like they know Twenty One Pilots and can relate to their everyday struggles and musings. In “Neon Gravestones,” a staggering and stark track from Trench, Joseph wrestles with the cruelness of society and how fleeting life can be. The band moved to a second stage to perform this song, filling the arena with a somber chill as the front man leaned over the keys and disassembled his daunting persona in prose.
Nowadays, Twenty One Pilots' performance is more fine-tuned, but not routine. They have managed to keep up with their popularity and expanding venues without sacrificing their grittiness and unconventional charisma. Despite having over-produced elements to the show such as the gas masks and confetti cannons, the pair relied on many tricks fans have come to expect over the years. Dun nailed his signature backflip off a piano and played drums on a platform atop fans in the pit at one point. Joseph, too, dangled above the crowd by his legs earlier in the night.
The duo skipped some of their older hits like “Heavydirtysoul” and “Tear In My Heart,” but soared through the sauntering, reggae-infused single “Ride” with flair. The guys are known for writing lyric-riddled songs, and Joseph matched an unforgiving tempo to deliver mouthfuls of lines without tripping throughout the band's lengthy set list.
In “My Blood,” Joseph used a tiptoeing falsetto to reiterate his undying support and dependability, two qualities their fans have latched onto and paid back in return. Less than 24 hours after Election Day, amidst political and social unrest, Twenty One Pilots challenged the discontent with their brand of inclusivity complete with an all-for-one war cry of “East is up!” echoed by fans.
By the end of the show, the defiant and empowering realm they had built overpowered the world outside of American Airlines Center and proved there is power in numbers.