On February 22nd I had the opportunity to see Twenty One Pilots at their Dallas date of the ‘Emotional Roadshow’ tour, my 7th time seeing them live. I’ve jumped at any and every opportunity to go to as many shows of theirs as I can ever since first seeing them back in 2013 when they opened for Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco on the Save Rock and Roll Arena Tour. So by the time this show rolled around I was no rookie to Twenty One Pilots concerts.
However, this show had a very different feel going into it than I was used to. I’ve seen this band play in several venues all over the state of Texas including Houston’s House of Blues, Austin’s Emo’s, Dallas’ Verizon Center, and so on. But tonight the American Airlines Center in Dallas was playing host, a 20,000 capacity venue. So a few more than you could fit at say, the House of Blues located right down the street. Not only were they playing at the AAC, but they were playing to a completely sold out AAC. Obvious feelings of excitement had been building over the weeks leading up to the show at the thought of getting to see this incredible band that I hold in such high esteem play to the capacity they truly deserve and have worked so hard to gain over the past few years. However, with this excitement and despite my best efforts, the selfish fan feelings that I tried to push down as much as I could managed to make their way to the surface as well. As happy as it made me to see a band that I love so much succeed in such a tremendous way that Twenty One Pilots have and to see so many other fans resonating with this music that I hold so dear, it’s hard for me not to long for the days of intimate shows in tiny venues and standing outside afterward to meet the band who were sure to come out. Those days that I was saddened to feel quickly fading away and feared would never return. Yes, it’s an extremely selfish thing to long for, but it’s a hard feeling to avoid as a fan that’s had the opportunity to watch a band (very quickly) outgrow venues over the last few years.
But more than just the selfish side of me wanting the intimacy places like the House of Blues or Emo’s offers where every spot in the room is a good one, I was more worried about how the show would carry out in a place like the AAC. For anyone who has ever been to a show in a small venue versus an arena, you can probably attest to the fact that it’s a whole different atmosphere jumping from one to another. What captivates a room might not necessarily translate very well in a larger space. Twenty One Pilots are a band that, along with being incredible musicians, play to the strength of being insanely talented performers and being able to put on a great live show with just two guys sitting at the forefront. This is what both excited and worried me about seeing them in this new setting. Would just two guys be able to orchestrate a performance that demands the attention of an entire arena?
On our ride into Dallas that afternoon while voicing all of these concerns about what this new era of Twenty One Pilots meant, my friend who has gone to pretty much every show with me for the past 3 years made a good point that almost instantly snapped me out of my cynical selfish-fan ways of thinking. She pointed out that while yes, shows might not be as intimate of a crowd as they once were and we might not be front and center at every show anymore, what all of this does mean is that with bigger shows comes a bigger production budget and more room for Tyler and Josh to channel their creative side and incorporate new things into the show that they may never have been able to do in the smaller venues that we were used to. And oh man, if Twenty One Pilots put on a captivating show before, imagine what they could do when they have an entire arena to work with! Along with that, this also meant that those smaller venues that we’ve spent so many memorable nights screaming along with Tyler and Josh in just don’t have the capacity to contain the ever-growing skeleton clique anymore, which is a pretty cool thing to think about. So with this new perspective we entered into the AAC, unsure of how this show would compare to what we were used to getting with Twenty One Pilots shows but excited to find out nonetheless.
And oh wow.
The second the lights dropped and that first drumbeat hit every worry about this show I had been feeling those past couple of weeks vanished. I will be the first to admit I did not place nearly enough faith in Tyler and Josh in their ability to make a room of 20,000 people feel just as intimate of a show as any small venue ever has. And yes, I do feel very dumb for that. From the insane production additions, to Tyler all of a sudden appearing on the third level of the AAC in the middle of a song as if by magic (I still don’t understand…), to Josh running around on top of the crowd in a giant plastic ball, and finishing up with the trademark closing performance of ‘Trees’ with Tyler and Josh jumping into the crowd to drum the final verse of the show while confetti floats down covering every inch of the arena, it was everything a Twenty One Pilots show has ever been and more, something I wasn’t sure was possible. But somehow this band did it. I could go on and on about how highly I think of Twenty One Pilots’ music and the genius behind it, but just as much can be said about their showmanship. It still blows my mind how just two guys up on a stage can have an audience of 20,000 people completely mesmerized and hanging on every beat for an entire hour and a half long performance. It’s one of those things that can’t be adequately explained in any combination of words, it has to be experienced first hand. Go to a Twenty One Pilots show and try not to be amazed at the level of energy and talent these guys bring to a stage, I dare you. There’s a reason the skeleton clique is as dedicated of a fanbase as they are. One show is all it takes.
This brings me to yet another major thing this band should take great pride in. Upon walking into the AAC that night it was clear that not a single person entering the arena was simply a casual fan, only familiar with radio hits such as ‘Heathens’ or ‘Stressed Out’. Every single person (at least that I came across during my time wondering around the AAC) was decked out in Twenty One Pilots gear or sporting intense red eyeshadow or black painted hands and necks or big white circular sunglasses or floral kimonos or black ski masks or just about anything else that is a trademark Twenty One Pilots look. Not only did they prove to be capable of filling an arena with 20,000 people, but they filled an arena with 20,000 clique members. Something that speaks volumes to the impact this band has had, to see such a high level of dedication in such a large volume is certainly not an accomplishment to be taken lightly by any means.
My experience at the Emotional Roadshow Tour was certainly one I will never forget and one that definitely made me realize how dumb ever having any doubts about this band was. It was an experience that ensured I will continue to jump at any and every opportunity to see them live that I can, even when they outgrow the AAC and move on even further to playing Cowboy Stadium, which will no doubt be just as captivating and intimate of a show as that one time I saw them play at Emo’s in Austin was. It was an experience from which I can only predict a continued path of more and more success for this unbelievably talented duo and wow, am I excited to see what the future holds for them!
(We did manage to make it to the very front and center after all. I guess some things don’t have to change just because venues get bigger…)