Enter the building and the first thing you see is a sea of bodies, feverish with anticipation. As a slight sceptic, this reviewer initially expects this to be a swarm of underage, high-pitched females, just waiting for their chance to scream, “I love you Tyler!” at the top of their lungs. But upon closer inspection, this is not the case as men and women, both young and old, have made the journey to Kensington tonight.
It’s around 5 minutes before this Ohio duo are to take the stage at the UNSW Roundhouse, and even their roadies and tech guys are checking the stage area with the lower half of their faces covered by a half-balaclava. All, it seems, in the spirit of the adolescent angst-ridden facade that their employers portray.
Electronic glitches and a rumbling bass sound suddenly fill our ears as a microphone lowers into the centre of the stage, illuminated in red. Two figures ascend to the stage, the drummer Josh Dun in a silver mask and vocalist Tyler Joseph in a white zip up skull mask and hoodie. This is Twenty One Pilots, the ear-splitting screams inform us.
Opening with Heavydirtysoul from their 2015 album Blurryface, Tyler furiously yields a tambourine, as Josh drums relentlessly and ferociously throughout the track. Things take a slower turn with the follow-up track and fan favourite Stressed Out, with Tyler perched behind a piano, unmasked and performing the melodic bounce of the track.
It seems that tonight’s performance will continue in this fashion. Jumping from differing genre blends; including rock, dubstep, hip hop, electro and even tinges of reggae; this music to me has always felt a bit forced and messy. Like an electronic Eminem skating sonically at times with Train, while listening to early Fall Out Boy and Saves The Day.
But as we pulverise through the jovial electro-pop vibe of Guns For Hands, the hip hop-tinged song Migrane, and the reggae-rock infused sound that is Polarize, nothing has felt more natural.
Even the ukulele-driven cover of Elvis Presley hit Can’t Help Falling In Love feels like a timid warbling love song from one young soul to another, not just a viral internet sensation.
It’s also astounding just how well Tyler nails those faster vocal parts that contribute to many of his songs. Take songs like Ride and early hit Car Radio, both of which showcases a succinct vocal delivery that can go from rapping to balladry to screaming in a heartbeat and flourish with complete satisfaction to the ears.
But the real standout tonight is their showmanship. There’s backflips from stage platforms and audience sing-alongs, but nothing seems to rile up the people in this room more than both dudes balancing on platforms being held up by fans above the front of the pit.
There is even one point where a kick drum, cymbal and snare drum are elevated above them, upon which Josh Dun clambers and smashes the shit out of it before launching into track Tear In My Heart.
After a slower 2-song encore, which includes tracks Goner and Trees, both gents descend to balance on top of those inhabiting the floor, each with a drum in front of them. As they beat towards a triumphant end, confetti and streamers fly through the air, smoke billows from the stage front, and everyone present looses their mind.
Consider this sceptic, no longer a sceptic. Their music may come out of an teenage angst-ridden place and it often feels like the epitome of mainstream, but with a live show like that you cannot dispute their authenticity.
Photos by Annette Geneva