LIVE: twenty one pilots @ SSE Arena, Wembley

By Yasmin Brown

With the sea of camouflage clothing, combat boots and yellow duct tape that makes up tonight’s Wembley Arena crowd, it would be easy to confuse the thousands of concert goers for troops heading off to war. If you take a second to read the subtext of these costumes, however, you quickly realise that fans of tonight’s main act – twenty one pilots – are simply playing dress up, basing their outfits on the clothing worn by the two members of the band in the first three music videos from latest album ‘Trench’. Before the show even starts, fans have conveyed levels of dedication and loyalty that bands rarely receive these days, as well as suggesting that this fandom borders on being something of a cult.

That’s not to say in any way that this particular cult holds the negative connotations that often come with the label. If you listen to the words front man Tyler Joseph rapidly spits out across the two hour set that is to come, you’ll learn that the clique is the driving force of this band, fuelled by a mutual understanding of faith, adversity, and temperamental mental health. Perhaps ‘family’ is a better word to describe what’s happening here.

For that reason it seems unfair to merely refer to The Bandito Tour as a ‘concert’. Not only is it a magical, mind blowing spectacle that leaves even the oldest fans speechless at times, but it’s a congregation of like-minded people, bonded by their love of this band and their message. It’s a spiritual experience.

The spectacle, though, must be addressed. Between CO2 cannons, yellow floating confetti, disappearing/reappearing acts, backflips off pianos, and a life size car in flames, there’s not a moment during the evening where attention can wander elsewhere. Even the lighting gives stadium shows a run for their money, with extravagant floating mechanisms moving to suit the band’s position on the main stage, and dancing, icicle-esque lighting adding ambience to the darker, more sombre part of the set that takes place on the B stage at the other side of a floating bridge.

Unlike many concerts, it feels as though every attendee is a die-hard twenty one pilots fan. While the crowd becomes less condensed towards the back of the pit, the rapping and screaming is just as loud as it as at the front, where those who have queued for hours to secure their spot at the barrier reside for the duration of the night. This enthusiasm ripples throughout the seats, too, as not a single person seems to remain seated – other than when encouraged by Tyler during the B stage portion of the set (otherwise known as ‘their dads’ favourite part’, for the very reason that they get to rest their legs).

Following the two more placid and emotional songs performed during this time – ‘Neon Gravestones’ and ‘Bandito’ – twenty one pilots ensure that any sodden eyes are promptly dried as they launch into the dizzying ‘Pet Cheetah’. They are the last band you’d expect to start a circle pit, but Tyler Joseph does just that as he makes his way back over the bridge to the main stage, pausing to encourage the crowd to part in the middle and lose their minds as the beat drops.

This energy is maintained throughout, not least because the show offers ample opportunity for singalongs, with ‘We Don’t Believe What’s On TV’, ‘Cut My Lip’ and ‘My Blood’ being just a few examples of moments we’re actively prompted to take over from Tyler as lead singers. The latter sees the resurgence of the notorious skeleton hoodie that became a symbol of their earlier ‘Vessel’ era, its appearance perhaps acting as a nod to those of us who have been members of the Skeleton Clique for a while, and at whom this song may well be directed.

With there only being two members of the band, it always seems important to front man Joseph to give drummer Josh Dun equal time in the limelight. Despite joking that he’s the lead singer and thus deserves more perks, it’s clear that Joseph respects Dun immensely, frequently glancing over at his bandmate for reassurance and exchanging broad grins. Whether it’s through the game show style introduction that occurs prior to ‘We Don’t Believe What’s On TV’, the elevated drum solo at the end of ‘Lane Boy’, or the solo that closes ‘Morph’, we’re consistently reminded that this band would not exist in the capacity that it does without both members of twenty one pilots.

Given that the majority of the night has been overridden by screams, it seems ambitious to expect a section of the evening entitled ‘The Quiet Game’ to go to plan. The aim of the game is, in theory, simple: stay as quiet as you can for as long as you can. In practice, however, you have 12,500 overexcited fans to manage, and it takes just two seconds for some guy at the back of the arena (“I feel like his name is Liam. Screw you, Liam”, comments Joseph) to yell out. Naturally the crowd boos angrily at ‘Liam’, who is, for tonight at least, now the most hated person in the whole of Wembley.

Ironically, later in the night after Joseph has finished clambering on the grappling crowd and Dun has flawlessly backflipped off the piano during old favourite ‘Holding Onto You’, he pauses ‘Ride’ to ensure someone makes it safely out of the pit. As this takes place, the entire arena is silent and Joseph laughs as he notes, “that was four seconds right there”.

While Joseph recounts his ongoing struggle with faith during ‘Leave The City’, we’re reminded that we “know that it’s almost over” before the clique is once again acknowledged for our fierce understanding of this band and their message with closing line, “These faces facing me, they know what I mean”. The pace then picks up with ‘Car Radio’, which fills the room with aggressively faultless rapping to the point where Joseph is almost inaudible, before he runs to the back of the arena once more to take his place on a podium that overlooks the entire crowd, smiling humbly at the seemingly never-ending, deafening screams.

There’s no doubt that The Bandito Tour was meticulously planned down to every last detail. As well as the stage props and human direction, the visuals that appear on the screens perfectly coincide with the song being performed at that moment. The most impressive are those depicting the ‘Trench’ narrative of Dema during ‘Nico and the Niners’ and ‘Leave the City’, the trippy graphics that make you feel like the air was filled with hallucinogenics during ‘Cut My Lip’, and the very adorable ‘Ned’ who makes a well-received appearance during the first track of the three song encore, latest single ‘Chlorine’. The amount of consideration and effort that went into creating this spectacle is unfathomable, and – in addition to the duo’s undeniable musical talent and explosive stage presence – clearly explains why twenty one pilots are doing so well in today’s industry.

This evening feels special. It was just six years ago that twenty one pilots were playing to 200 fans at London’s Barfly, and yet today they have no issue selling out three nights at Wembley Arena. To see them succeed so monumentally after writing lyrics such as “It’s the few, the proud, the emotional” is poignant – and as the band leave the stage following an almost inaudible “We’re twenty one pilots and so are you”, it’s easy to feel as integral in the growth of twenty one pilots as Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun themselves.