Twenty One Pilots at the Greek Theatre, by Estefany Gonzalez
Twenty One Pilots (photo: Estefany Gonzalez)

As I walked to my car after seeing Twenty One Pilots at the Greek Theatre in Berkley, I ran into two young girls chatting about their favorite parts of the concert. When I neared the street I parked on, one of the girls said she cried because she loved the show so much, then turned to me asked,“Did you cry?”

The question made me think back to the first time I saw Twenty One Pilots at America’s Cup Pavilion, back in 2013. The band was first on the line-up and opened for Fall Out Boy. I’d never heard of the duo before but by the end, I was blown away by their set.

I had no idea how to classify their music. It was upbeat, had distinct time signatures, and was full of witty lyrics. Singer Tyler Joseph played the ukulele, rapped and had a drum battle with drummer Josh Dun, who juggled drumsticks without missing a beat.

Though the duo has made quite a name for themselves, the passion they displayed the first time I saw them hasn’t diminished. If anything, it’s grown throughout the years, and the fact that they sold out two nights at The Greek Theater proves it. With this tour, Twenty One Pilots delivered just what the title promises: an Emotional Roadshow.

With performances of meaningful songs like “Car Radio” — a track about how torturous silence can be when you’re alone with your own thoughts for too long— it’s easy to understand where the emotional part of the tour comes in. Yet, the roadshow isn’t hard to miss, with fun acts like a synchronized drum-line, Dun doing back flips off a piano and Joseph running on top of the audience in a giant human-sized hamster ball.

The band’s involvement with the audience has expanded since the last time I saw them—which is saying something since Dun drummed as he crowd-surfed when I caught the band’s set at Live 105’s BFD last year. Not only did he continue this tradition, but the pair surprised the crowd by playing on a makeshift stage in the back of the arena, which allowed people hundreds of feet from the stage to see the band up close.

The duo played “Ode To Sleep”—a song people in their hometown to named by putting possible titles into a bucket— and older tracks on this impromptu stage.

Once back on the main stage, the singer scaled the top of the stage and was up so high he looked like an ant from where I stood on the general admission floor. As the roadshow continued the pair jumped around so much, it seemed as though their feet hardly touched the ground.

While older songs had the crowd pumped up, radio hits like “Stressed Out” and “Tear In My Heart” also had people in the theater singing along.

Another crowd favorite was the cover of Celine Diones “My Heart Will Go on,” where Dun played a trumpet solo and recreated the boat scene between Jack and Rose in the movie Titanic. 

At the end of the night just before the last song, Joseph thanked everyone for attending the show. He said the past two nights were special to him and challenged the audience to cheer louder than the first night’s attendees.

“We’re almost done,” Joseph said. “I gave you everything I had.”

Though I didn’t think it was possible, the applause got louder and it was clear that none of the people cheering doubted that the singer had given them everything he had.

On the drive home, I thought back to my young friend’s question. While no, I didn’t cry, I understood how someone could be overwhelmed with such a powerful performance. In the end, she gave Joseph back everything she had, too.