Twenty One Pilots at the SAP Events Center, Brittany O'Brien

Twenty One Pilots (photo: Brittany O’Brien)

As Tyler Joseph screamed the lyrics of “Hometown” hundreds of feet from the floor on a balcony ledge of the SAP Center in San Jose, it became apparent why tickets for this Twenty One Pilots concert sold out a year in advance.  Joseph went from playing the piano under a black sheet on the main stage just seconds earlier and reappeared to end the song next to fans who otherwise would have been too far for a front row performance.

This was one of the many moments during the band’s live show which allowed the audience to be a part of the concert. They perform as a two-piece with backing tracks, but unlike most electronic, rap, pop acts, they have a brave punk rock element where they try to be as involved with the crowd as much as possible. The duo creates a sound of its own by using unique time changes, distinct sound breaks, bitter-sweet lyrics that mix with up-beat riffs and introducing instruments such as the ukulele and trumpet. From setting up a smaller more intimate stage in the back of the general admission floor,  playing Mario Kart with fans,  and crowd surfing whilst drumming — the Emotional Roadshow took fans out of their seats and let them engage with Twenty One Pilots.

Polaroids of Twenty One Pilots at the San Jose SAP Center by Estefany Gonzalez

Twenty One Pilots (photo: Estefany Gonzalez)

The pair played a large number of world festivals, got nominated for five GRAMMYs this year, and even accepted one in their underwear. The duo’s popularity grows each time they return to the Bay Area and each show sells out faster and faster. Re-sell tickets for this concert went from $90 for balcony seats and more than $200 for floor tickets (despite the numerous times the band’s played in the area).

Part of what makes this band so popular is the community setting it creates for its fans.  In the last album Blurryface,  Joseph openly sang about battles with his insecurities and depression by creating the character “Blurryface,” a darker version of himself which he represented on stage by covering his face and neck with black paint.  The skeleton clique, a title a large number of their fans have dubbed themselves, offers a place for fans who relate to the band’s songs lyrics to come together and support each other with slogans such as “stay alive.”


Twenty One Pilots (photo: Estefany Gonzalez )

“We wanted to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” Joseph said during the set. “Thank you so much for making our dreams come true.”

During “Migraine,” a sea of thousands of people chanted “My mind’s ship-wrecked, this is the only land my mind could find. I did not know it was such a violent island full of tidal waves, suicidal crazed lions, they’re trying to eat me, blood running down their chin and I know that I can fight, or I can let the lion win,” without missing a beat. Though the song lyrics aren’t typically catchy, and this wasn’t a part of the chorus, the words resonated with fans and showed that the band was a  part of something bigger than themselves. These lyrics sunk into the minds of thousands of people.

Just before kicking off “Ode To Sleep” on the second stage, the band played a video montage back to 2011 when drummer Josh Dun first joined the band. You could see clips of the pair playing in garages, living rooms, and small clubs.  The shift to the smaller stage seemed fitting, as the official music video for the song follows the duo on the first show outside of their hometown of Columbus Ohio, and performing in front of 12 people. Though the arena was much, much larger than any of the rooms on the screen, the energy and intimacy from the band’s earlier days still came across. You could hear songs like “Addict with a Pen,” a song off the 2009 self-titled album echoing across the wall of the SAP Center.

Perhaps another reason tickets for the band’s live shows sell so quickly is because of the symbolism each part of the band’s set possessed. From Joseph trusting fans to use their hands to hold up a giant hamster ball while he runs on top of the crowd during “Guns For Hands,” to Dun defeating himself on stage during a drum battle with a virtual version of himself, each moment on stage seems to hold a deeper meaning.


Twenty One Pilots (photo: Estefany Gonzalez )

Overall, the Emotional Roadshow was just that — an emotional thought-provoking show with a number of engaging performances that, like most roadshows, leave you mystified about how some of those instances were even possible.