By Vinnie Lione-Napoli
Arts & Entertainment Co-Editor
This past Friday night, people crammed themselves directly in front of the stage in the Jake Nevin Field House, eagerly awaiting the featured performer of this year’s Winter Concert. The concert they were about to experience was going to be a welcome departure from the cycle of hip hop artists that had been brought to campus each year. While there were almost certainly a few students in attendance who had never heard a single Twenty One Pilots song prior to that night, every one of them was assuredly clamoring for more of the duo’s energizing music the moment they left the stage.
Even before the doors were opened at 7 p.m. there was some apprehension surrounding the artist. Students that were at first slightly interested in Twenty One Pilots let the event pass them by in lieu of other activities.
According to CAT Music co-director Evan McIntyre, “there were roughly 400 something people there but we sold over 500 tickets.”
Those who had an opportunity to attend but elected not to go sorely missed out on what will surely be known as one of the most surprisingly entertaining and captivating concerts of the current music scene.
Consisting of vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, Twenty One Pilots is an up-and-coming duo from Columbus, Oh. Their virtually genreless music ranges from alternative to hip hop, with a ukulele thrown into the mix for good measure.
Before the main show began, however, both McIntyre and Chris Crochak, a student from Temple University, had the chance to take the stage. The two comprise EMCK, which McIntyre describes as a “blend of acoustic folk with rock and punk influences.”
“Opening for Twenty One Pilots was definitely an incredible experience,” McIntyre said.
“EMCK has never had an opportunity to perform for that many people on such massive sound equipment.”
Following an enjoyable set that consisted of both original songs as well as covers, EMCK departed the stage, initiating a brief intermission period that allowed concertgoers to ponder just what kind of performance Twenty One Pilots would deliver.
Before long, Joseph and Dun burst onto the stage in skeleton-themed garb and ski masks, igniting the campus venue with pulsating lights and powerful beats. The duo opened with “Fake You Out,” a catchy song that blends electronic influences with pop and rap while also demonstrating Joseph’s stellar vocal range.
Ten of the songs played on Friday night are from the pair’s third studio album “Vessel,” released in January of this year. The next song on the setlist, “Migraine,” is one of the most lyrically compelling tracks from the album, comprised of primarily rap verses interspersed with a memorable pop hook that kept Joseph excitedly running across the stage while Dun passionately attacked his drum set.
“Fall Away,” the only Twenty One Pilots song not on “Vessel,” was another exercise in the duo’s ability to mix and match music types, with rapping that often sounds like Eminem smoothly transforming into the grandiose vocals reminiscent of Muse’s Matthew Bellamy.
One of the best songs of the night was the epic “Ode to Sleep,” another seamless blend of multiple genres that combines lyrical depth with imaginative tonal shifts peppered across the whole track. Joseph’s impassioned delivery of the pop verses was perfectly aligned with Dun’s relentless drumming.
Following the mildly aggressive first rap verse of “Ode to Sleep,” Joseph removed his ski mask, finally coming face-to-face with the amped-up crowd right before transitioning into the more upbeat part of the song.
“Screen” featured a beautiful arrangement of many instruments, completed by Dun’s bouncy percussion and Joseph’s lighter rap verses. As with many of the duo’s songs, the audience was able to clap along with and perhaps relate to the sing-a-long “we’re broken” portion.
One of the more entertaining parts of the night was the medley of covers that followed “Screen,” featuring Joseph blazing through brief portions of Alicia Keys’ “No One,” Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win,” Akon’s “Don’t Matter,” R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix),” Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” and Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me”—-accompanied by just Dun and a ukulele.
Joseph even played along with audience members who abruptly burst into “Build Me Up Buttercup” before immediately moving into their second single from “Vessel,” “House of Gold.”
Featuring an abundance of sunny ukulele melodies, this alternative pop song will almost certainly be one of the factors of further fame for Twenty One Pilots. Stunning from an audio and lyrical standpoint, the mostly muted “House of Gold” briefly explodes towards the end before returning to a peaceful calm.
Following engaging covers of “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Time to Say Goodbye,” Joseph and Dun jumped into one of their more recognizable hits, “Holding On To You.” Another effective punk-rap fusion with a catchy vocal chorus, Joseph effortlessly snatched the crowd’s attention with his unwavering energy.
Most of the concert attendees will undoubtedly remember the next song as the moment when Dun audaciously and innovatively crowd-surfed with his drum set. As a group of students held up a platform, Dun mightily powered through “Semi-Automatic,” another primarily electronic song that features an exciting yet laid-back beat.
While Joseph periodically entertained the crowd with humorous anecdotes throughout the show, he quite literally engaged the concertgoers when he pulled one of them on stage with him—-after comically asking his first choice to go back into the audience for not being from the University—to sing the hook of the next song, “The Run and Go.” Infectious in entirety, this Third Eye Blind-esque vocal component completes a truly standout song.
As the show began to wind down, Joseph amusingly leveled with the crowd, outwardly commenting on the obvious trend in the music industry for musicians to lie about a song being their last when an encore is almost surely coming afterwards.
On that note, Twenty One Pilots launched into their first “last” song, “Car Radio.” Joseph expressed how meaningful this slightly-spoken, self-reflective song was to him before beginning the smooth, solemn journey through his story. He asked the audience to jump with him when he leapt off of his piano towards the end of the song, inciting a lively light show that could rival even the most cherished EDM concert.
Although Joseph semi-jokingly suggested that the audience should cheer for him and Dun to return to the stage following their initial departure, the reaction from the crowd was unquestionably genuine.
The actual last song was “Guns For Hands,” a bouncy tune that provided an effective summation of the band that had gained hundreds of fans during their brief visit to Jake Nevin.
Those who were casual fans beforehand were further roped into the Twenty One Pilots phenomenon.
“They interacted really well with the crowd and let the audience be a part of the show,” senior Nicole Rovi said.
“Tyler’s ukulele covers of modern songs [were] so much fun.”
Twenty One Pilots left the University on an excellent note, providing unknowing students with an unforgettable experience.
The exceedingly talented duo will be performing at a free Radio 104.5 concert this January with New Politics, Switchfoot and MS MR.
With any luck, the world will discover Twenty One Pilots as easily as they’ve managed to discover themselves as the visionaries that all of music desperately needs.