LIVE REVIEW: twenty one pilots, half alive, OVO Arena Wembley, 25/06/2022
Photo Credit: Caitlyn Ebsworthy
Back in 2018, twenty one pilots released their fifth studio album Trench; an album that contains a track titled Leave The City. A declaration for character Nancy to escape the fictional world of Dema, conjured up by its creator twenty one pilots’ very own Tyler Joseph as a means of detailing the long winding road and entrapment a mental illness can inflict. Outside of the claustrophobia walls of Dema, there is one city that twenty one pilots can never seem to escape.
Back in London for their Takeover Tour, a lot has changed since the last time the Columbus duo were on this side of the pond. A global pandemic and also an extra album in 2021’s Scaled And Icy is in their six-album strong discography, for vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dunn they returned to a city they love, one which they just can’t seem to leave.
twenty one pilots Takeover trip down memory lane starts down at Camden’s Assembly, a 400 cap stage situated above a humble London pub where the band first played a decade ago to the same number of punters who back then, were the OG clique, clinging onto this underground band on the brink of big things years later. Next up, the American duo took to O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, a bigger 2,000 cap venue, one which birthed the Blurryface era to UK crowds back in November 2015. Moving onto the sloping floors of O2 Academy in Brixton, double the size of its Shepherd’s Bush counterpart and home to this band’s comeback shows called the Complete Diversion back in September 2018, following on from TOP’s time here in February 2016. The last stop on twenty one pilots’ Takeover tour tonight added a lot more digits to that crowd, capping off at Wembley’s OVO Arena, no strangers to shows here, bringing the yellow hues of the Trench era for a duo of sold out shows in Spring ’19. Scaling up the production to icily good levels of perplexing visuals, twenty one pilots biggest spectacle down at Wembley Arena odes to this duo’s historical accomplishments they have made room to room, ones which are only going to enlarge the next time twenty one pilots are back in this city.
It’s this footage from the week of Takeover shows that starts off the bands final hurrah down at Wembley Arena on their week-long escapade, the grainy black and white imagery providing the biggest distraction of them all, the duo daringly walking up each side of the standing crowd, making their way to stage with only so much as a spotlight illuminating them individually amongst a sea of red beanie wearing and yellow tape covered 6,000 standing members of the Skeleton Clique. Adorned in white coats and black face masks, the duo unites onstage to start set openers Good Day and No Chances, the curtain dropping in conspicuous fashion to reveal the rainbow claw representing the bands pop centric Scaled And Icy era, as smoke fumes plummet out of Joseph’s jewelled up black ski mask, who then flips off-stage towards the end of No Chances in high drama stunt man style.
Ripping off his mask to reveal a black paint covered neck and hands, the Blurryface era takes over the Takeover for Stressed Out. “Were you doing a wave before we came out here?,” asks Joseph before any form of red and black aesthetics or lyrics of nostalgic insecurities take over. “Who started that, can we get a spotlight on who started it and do it again?,” he continues, making reference to the wave engulfing the entirety of Wembley Arena before the duo stepped out on stage, which after many failed first attempts ripped around the arena like a violence surf wave, cheers, screams and rapturous rounds of applause ear-deafening when the wave finally did its 360 arounds the arena. The ringleader? One individual guy situated in block S6.
“We’ve been here for a week and this is our fourth and final show of this week, thank you for making us feel at home in your beautiful country,” gushes a thankful Joseph before twenty one pilots proved they were no strangers to a song medley or three throughout their stint of shows this week. The first features Migraine/Morph/Holding On To You, three songs spanning three of the band’s albums, as rain floods the stage during Morph and the crowd move their feet to an introspective beat throughout Holding On To You, with Dunn backflipping off Joseph’s piano to acrobatic perfection. Later on, Formidable/Doubt/Tear In My Heart get mixed up, before a medley in front of warm crackling fires that could perfectly toast a smore for the gathering around for the campfire medley, Joseph and the band gathering around for a joyous ukulele led acoustic sing-a-long of I Can See Clearly Now/My Girl/Home, later topped off with the duo’s own stuff with the stomping House Of Gold/We Don’t Believe What’s On TV.
Outside of the world of medleys, The Outside brings things back to modern day twenty one pilots, who have embarked on a bit of a sonic evolution for Scaled And Icy. The glitter encrusted longline black faux fur coat signifies yet another outfit change for the many visual eras of the band, the jazz swagger and groove infusion of the song getting Wembley bopping back to front, alongside the entire backing band’s time to shine on their respective instruments.
Bathing his hands in black paint with his neck to match to transform into the infamous character Blurryface from the bands 2016 album, Joseph performs this rite of passage as track Message Man reaches its peak. However, the Blurryface era rolls straight into Lane Boy, where boiler suits and gas mask wearing figures spray out carbon dioxide as the track erupts into its chaos causing bridge.
“I think it’s a massive honour to wear sunglasses like this in this town,” points out Joseph, another outfit change resulting in the frontman adorning a flamboyant pair of square oversized shades, highly suited to the unmistakable Elton John cover of Bennie And The Jets that precedes it. Joseph; the spitting image of an alternative John honours a national treasure, himself and partner Dunn gliding their way gracefully with gentle pianos and humble drums paying homage to the ‘74 classic.
As yellow crashed of confetti cover the stage for Trench number Jumpsuit and red-hot fire and rap rock ferocity blazed a trail through Blurryface’s Heavydirtysoul, twenty one pilots return to Scaled And Icy territory, as the infectious dance riddles Saturday and standalone quarantine single Level Of Concern conjure up pinch-me style moments for Joseph. “I just want to take my time here. I am trying to soak in everything about this show and this iconic venue in such a musically iconic country,” continuing into Level Of Concern “It’s been a few years since we last came over here, but live music is very much alive,” For a song born out of enforced isolation and worldwide lockdowns, this was twenty one pilots full circle moment that two years ago or even thirteen at their careers infancy, they never would have believed the hype and hysteria sweeping over Wembley Arena for the Columbus duo than right at this very moment.
It’s two songs away from the encore where twenty one pilots whip out the Dynamo style stunts that sweep through songs Ride, where Joseph clambers up in lightning speed style into the seating areas of the arena for the swinging bass driven rap infused Ride, to scaling towering heights to no longer conceal the identity of their faceless selves, Joseph whipping off his black ski mask as he painfully screams “And now I just sit in silence”, the full scale Wembley Arena allowing for this stunt to be pulled off in dramatic fashion in comparison to its smaller scale shows that preceded it earlier this week.
Infused with elements of My Chemical Romance’s I’m Not Okay (I Promise), Shy Away provides the sing-a-long needed before the tear shedding ender of Trees. Permanent set closer ever since its inception, Dunn and Joseph get down into the crowd to trust them with their lives once more, many strong arms holding the duo and their drums aloft for the confetti explosion finale, those eight words everyone wants to hear muttered from Joseph’s mouth as one last goodbye for a show that has been nothing short of a spectacle, “We’re twenty one pilots, and so are you.”
Whilst Ed Sheeran might have been playing a sold-out show next door at Wembley Stadium, causing an inevitable gridlock getting out of the Wembley area later that night, it was twenty one pilots, the duo hailing from Columbus Ohio who ultimately had the bigger clique of the night, their Takeover Tour took over London own for a slow graduation of shows that saw the perplexing hyper-visuals grow as this innovative modern rock duo’s career continues to ascend to stratospheric heights. 10/10
Written By: Katie Conway-Flood
Photo Credit: Caitlyn Ebsworthy