Twenty One Pilots have always been an arena band. Even when they were carrying a piano down basement stairs, performing in masks to demand a drop more attention and selling out the likes of The Barfly, they did it with a grand spotlight confidence. Tonight they’re at Wembley Arena for the first of three shows. It’s been a lifetime in the planning but that never gets in the way of the bubbling excitement that they finally made it this far.
From the moment Josh holds a lit torch up to the dark expanse of Wembley, TøP are welcomed home. A burning car rises from the ground, and the band snap into the snarling, strobe attack of ‘Jumpsuit’ and ‘Levitate’ without taking a breath. ‘Fairly Local’ sees Tyler fall from the stage before appearing instantly at the other end of the room. There’s a moment of disbelief that is quickly answered as he tears off his ski mask to thunderous applause. Tonight it seems anything is possible.
The band’s only worry about their accelerated leap from academies to arenas was the increased distance from their fans. Time and time again tonight, Tyler and Josh get close with their 12,500 strong clique. Of course, there’s the twisting collection of heart-coaxing anthems, every declaration and admission that comforted through headphones and in bedrooms now proudly shared with the world inside this room, but it’s more than call and response. There’s a levitating bridge that descends from the heavens that Tyler crosses to get to a b-stage in the middle of the room (Josh has to walk through the crowd while a grinning Tyler waits) before the pair dive into a slow burning powerhouse of ‘Neon Gravestones’ and ‘Bandito’, before ‘Pet Cheetah’ sees them take the bridge back and threaten to tear the roof down. The end of ‘Car Radio’ is delivered from a scaffold tower at the back of the room, ‘Trees’ has the pair on drum kits on the audience and there’s a platform from stage to barrier that means the crowd is never out of reach.
“If you come to a show, what it is that our fans are doing is by far the most impressive thing that you’ll see,” Tyler promised us recently. Twenty One Pilots are never ones to overhype, and tonight the clique are true to their word. Yellow paper hearts, lovingly printed, cut out and shared, are held in front of camera lights all round the venue for ‘Neon Gravestone’, showing empathy, understanding and resolve. The beating, fragile words of ‘Cut My Lip are deafening, unspoken things given a voice, while at the back of the room, there are conga lines, sit down circle pits and dance like nobody’s watching eruptions. There’s space for everyone to enjoy tonight in their own way, and they’re never alone in doing so.
‘Trench’ is an album about being lost, but also found. Tonight, as Twenty One Pilots feel bigger, bolder and more confident than ever before, they make sure that everyone still feels important in this world. Impressive is only the beginning.
Words: Ali Shutler