Even as lead singer Tyler Joseph told the crowd he’d see them again the next time around, Twenty One Pilots’ set at TD Garden felt like the end of the band. Much of this had to do with the subject matter of their most recent album, “Trench.” Lyrics like “They know that it’s almost over” from the album’s closing track allude to the fact that the band’s “Bandito” tour may be their last. Regardless, singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun gave it their all in Boston, demonstrating that their spectacle was not without substance.
The band’s entrance set the tone for the rest of the night. Dun initially took the stage after the curtain fell from its rails, masked and holding a lit torch. Joseph then rose up through the stage floor on top of an old car engulfed in flames, also masked. They opened with a few new tracks — ”Jumpsuit” and “Levitate” among them — and performed with remarkable intensity.
The show’s set pieces matched that intensity. Fittingly, risers on the stage levitated during “Levitate.” In the middle of “Fairly Local,” Joseph climbed up onto a riser that elevated him about 20 feet. He then fell backward into a pit in the center of the stage and disappeared. All was black and silent until Joseph reappeared in one of the lower bowl sections and finished the song, taking his mask off after the final chorus to prove he was not a double. A red beanie, reminiscent of the band’s “Blurryface” era, descended from above before “Stressed Out.” Twenty One Pilots transitioned into the show’s quieter moments by physically moving to a b-stage at the other end of the stadium. Their paths to the stage mirrored each member’s personality: Joseph walked over on a descended light fixture, while Dun simply walked.
If any part of the show felt lacking, it was when the band brought Awolnation (of “Sail” fame) and Max Frost, the openers, back onto the stage. They did a good job with the covers — Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” — but their inclusion felt like an unneeded tonal departure. The duo quickly rebounded, though, with their hit song “Ride,” as they left the covers behind as the only questionable part of the night.
The b-stage featured the show’s most emotional moments. Joseph justified the change of pace by saying the band members’ fathers wanted a time to rest their legs. He then told everyone in the crowd to sit down. A new curtain fell over the stage, with a video projected on it. Joseph told a story about “Taxi Cab,” off their eponymous debut, mentioning that it was the first song he ever added a rap to. He delivered that rap — which focuses on an encounter with God after a suicide attempt — flawlessly, never losing the crowd during its emotional rollercoaster. Returning to songs on “Trench,”“Neon Gravestones” matched that emotion with its timely discussion of celebrity suicides. The song and its accompanying visual played off the album’s vulture motif. The other songs on the b-stage, while not as blatantly emotional, dealt with topics like acceptance and writer’s block. “Pet Cheetah,” a song structured around Joseph’s obsession with tinkering with “Trench” before its release, served as a transition back to the front stage. Joseph rapped the entirety of the song on the descended light fixture, which disappeared into the ceiling after the song’s ending.
Joseph and Dun displayed remarkable stamina throughout the concert. Joseph’s voice was able to hit both high notes (especially during “My Blood” and “Morph”) and intense yelling (“Car Radio” and “Holding On To You”). And even throughout a 22-song, drum-heavy set, Dun never missed a beat. He looked like he was enjoying himself, at one point taking off his shirt to reveal “Go Red Sox” written in Sharpie on his chest. Joseph took particular interest in the World Series game, at first refusing to say the score out of respect for those who DVR’d it, before eventually motivating the crowd before the show closer by mentioning that the score was tied but that the Sox would find it in them to win. His prediction was a bit off: The Sox lost to the Dodgers in the early hours of Saturday after 18 innings of baseball.
The show was also physically demanding for both members. At one point, Dun backflipped off a piano, while Joseph made parkour-esque jumps at multiple times during the show. At some points during the set, however, certain members of the pit had to show their own strength. Instead of crowd surfing, Joseph sang while being held up by the crowd after returning from the b-stage. Dun performed a drum solo during “Morph” on a platform also being held up by some strong concertgoers on the floor. Before the show closer, “Trees,” Joseph asked the crowd if they had one more song left in them. At that point, it was astonishing that they had enough energy to keep going. With another set piece, this one involving both members drumming while being supported by the crowd, the band left the stage with Joseph proclaiming, “We’re Twenty One Pilots, and so are you!” With bursts of confetti and uplifting synths, “Trees” encapsulated a night that showed Twenty One Pilots at their best: spectacle without compromise.
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